SURVIVAL AND FRUITFULNESS IN THE LAST DAYS
SURVIVAL AND FRUITFULNESS IN THE LAST DAYS Copyright Š 2006Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Some Scripture (as noted) taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers
A study of the Book of Revelation reveals that overcoming Antichrist will be a major concern of Christians in the last days. While it is our opinion that there will be an actual person who will sit between the wings of the Cherubim of Glory in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, it is true also the spirit of Antichrist has been with us from the first century.
Precisely what is the Antichrist spirit? Why did the Apostle John state "they went out from us"? How are the believers of today to know if the Antichrist spirit is in us, and if so, how are we to overcome it? For there is a terrifying penalty associated with worshiping the Beast (Antichrist) and his image and receiving the mark of his name.
Table of Contents
SURVIVAL AND FRUITFULNESS IN THE LAST DAYS
And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered. (Daniel 8:9-12)
The writer does not profess to understand all that is implied in the above passage. We do believe, however, that during the reign of Antichrist there will be enormous spiritual pressure on the people living on the earth. The pressure will be so great that prayer to God in Heaven will be extremely difficult. Also, it will be almost impossible to resist forces that are urging us to sin.
Perhaps the predicted darkness already is active as we read of someone shooting a number of children and then himself for no apparent reason. As incidents of this kind increase in frequency people are asking, Why? The answer is, satanic fury is being unleashed in the world. Antichrist is being given authority over the nations.
And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. (Revelation 13:7)
This tremendous, unprecedented darkness is at hand. Let the reader take heed and prepare himself and his loved ones. There will be no "rapture" to remove church people out of the darkness. But God has made a special provision for the last days. That provision is a greater fullness of the Father and the Son that will enter those who are seeking the Lord.
In order for us to receive the greater fullness of God we must be willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Master with a pure heart.
He [the False Prophet] also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16,17—NIV)
The Antichrist (Beast) is a main topic of the Book of Revelation. Keeping in mind that the Book of Revelation is addressed to the servants of God and Christ, we Christians are solemnly warned concerning the torments that are to fall on those who worship the Antichrist and his image and receive the mark of his name.
We believe Antichrist will be a deceived Christian who, in the last days, will take his place on the Mercy Seat between the wings of the Cherubim of a restored temple in Jerusalem. We do not know who he is, what his image will be, or what will be the mark of his name.
This present brief article will not deal with the actual person of Antichrist, his image, or the mark of his name, but with the spirit of Antichrist that has been in people during the past two thousand years of church history.
Notice that Antichrist comes from among the ranks of Christians, just as did Judas.
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (I John 2:18,19)
"They went out from us"!
Being deceived by the Antichrist spirit is more of a danger to the Christian than to the unbelievers. Why is this?
To understand why Antichrist is such a great danger to the Christian we must revise our concept of Satan. Satan was at one time one of the most exalted of the heavenly personages. He is accustomed to being in the center of the Glory of God.
God chose to give all of His Glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan is jealous and envious and is seeking to supplant Jesus as the heir of the Glory of God. This is why there is so much jealousy, envy, and supplanting in the churches.
Satan leaves his minor demons to harass the prostitutes, the alcoholics, those on drugs. Satan himself always seeks out the most fervent assembly of Christians he can find. Satan desires to be where there are healing and miracles taking place, pageantry, intense worship, inspiring music, the manifest Presence of God. Satan always gathers with the sons of God.
Satan still desires to be in the center of the Glory of God.
How, then, can we survive and be fruitful in the last days without being deceived by Antichrist? What is the key to the understanding of Antichrist?
The key to the understanding of Antichrist. The Antichrist spirit in man is that of self-will, of man making himself God. It is as simple as that. Our present age emphasizes the importance of the rights of people, meaning that the person who is in control of his circumstances and destiny is the one who is functioning correctly.
The False Prophet (Revelation 13:11) is religious man seeking the works and glory of God but who is reserving the right to be himself. "I will be like the most High." We can see that Antichrist and the False Prophet are closely related in that neither is willing to submit to the authority of God. The False Prophet supports the Antichrist.
The only way of protecting ourselves from partaking of the spirit of Antichrist and the False Prophet is to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. It is only as we lose our life that we can survive and be fruitful in the last days.
Salvation is primarily for God’s benefit. Today’s preaching is so filled with the spirit of Antichrist and the False Prophet (the spirit of religious delusion) that the Gospel is perceived as being the means whereby man can be forgiven, healed, blessed financially, brought to success in all areas of life, and admitted to Paradise when he dies.
Although one would think so from current preaching, God was not created to serve the needs of mankind. People were created to worship and serve God whatever the cost to them personally.
It is no wonder that Christians and their activities are mocked and scorned by the secular world.
The fact is, salvation is primarily for God’s benefit. While it is true that man can be forgiven, healed, and blessed in many ways through Christ, the purpose is so he can worship God in righteousness and do the will of God. It is not what God does for man that is utterly important but how man can be brought to the place of worshiping and serving God.
On numerous occasions throughout church history, to receive Christ and be baptized in water meant the loss of one’s family and property, torture, and death. In this case the Good News became bad news as far as the flesh is concerned. But the Gospel is always Good News in terms of the Kingdom that is coming.
We are not truly converted until we have died to our own desires and have presented our body a living sacrifice to God. This is our reasonable service of worship.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1,2)
We must humble ourselves, always seeking the Glory of God. If we are blessed, healed, and joyous, this is to be desired. But if we are in a place of suffering, this is just as desirable providing we are being afflicted under the hand of God so we might be a partaker of His holiness.
The Antichrist spirit (for the rest of the article we will regard the False Prophet as so closely related to Antichrist that we will mention only Antichrist) will never accept the idea that Christians are supposed to suffer. What does that tell us about those of today who will embrace a "laughing revival" because it seems to be helping people, but will quickly reject any idea that they must share in the sufferings of Christ? The concept that the believers must enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation is clearly scriptural.
During the Day of Atonement the Israelites were commanded to afflict their souls, to humble themselves, to deny themselves. This is important to consider because the spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement is taking place today as Christians are confessing and turning away from their sins.
Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Leviticus 23:27)
For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. (Leviticus 23:29)
Overcoming deception. Antichrist is a deceiver. How do we overcome the deceiver? By putting to death our old nature and being filled with Christ. By denying ourselves so Christ might live in us.
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (I John 4:3,4)
Our present-day American culture is one massive lie, the lie of self-will, of humanism—man-centeredness. How can we escape from this deception? How can we overcome the great lie with Divine truth? Only by being filled with the Lord Jesus.
We cannot escape deception by any amount of Bible reading, prayer, or seeking to do God’s will, although all of these help us make a success of our discipleship. However, we can escape deception by taking up our personal cross and following the Lord. It is our cross that puts to death our old nature, the old adamic man. As the old man is put to death Christ lives in us. We must be crucified with Christ. It is only then that we can begin to perceive the truth. As long as we are alive in the old nature there is an entrance for the self-willed Satan into our personality and behavior.
Whenever we refuse to suffer under the hand of God, when we do not seek His pleasure but our own, do not seek His fulfillment but our own, we open ourselves to the deceptions that come from Satan.
Antichrist will never deny himself that Christ may be glorified. Antichrist must have his own way. Whenever we see a believer who always insists on having his own way, who is selfish, jealous, envious, spreading gossip and slander, ready to defy authority, easily offended, we know that that one is not denying himself so Christ may be glorified. He is partaking of the spirit of Antichrist.
The Christian who is not willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Master eventually becomes a member of the synagogue of Satan. Even though he may be doctrinally sound and work fervently in the things of the Gospel, Satan has an entrance into his personality. He soon will find himself hating those who truly are following the Lamb.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. (Revelation 3:9)
We are in the year 1998. From now on there will be unprecedented moral horrors as well as the persecution of Christians.
What provision has God made for Christians so they may survive Antichrist and the great tribulation? One popular belief is that God will remove the believers from the earth before the time of Antichrist and the great tribulation. We think this belief can easily be shown to be without foundation in the Scriptures.
God has a much better provision than the removal of the believers, a provision that has firm scriptural support.
God’s provision for insuring the survival and fruitfulness of believers throughout the last days is to fill them with the Presence of the Father and the Son. Zion will be filled with the Glory of God. Neither Antichrist nor tribulation can spiritually harm (and spiritual, not physical, harm is the danger) the believer who has died to his self-will and in whom God and Christ are reigning.
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)
The "Tabernacles" experience. The feasts of the Lord (Leviticus, Chapter 23) reveal there are three great platforms of redemption: basic salvation through the blood of the Lamb; the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer; and the coming of the Father and the Son to make Their eternal home in the believer.
Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the Lord empty: (Deuteronomy 16:16)
The feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) typifies basic salvation through the blood of the Lamb.
The feast of Weeks (Pentecost) portrays the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
The feast of Tabernacles (Booths) symbolizes the coming of the Father and the Son to make Their eternal home in the believer.
Since the time of the Protestant Reformers the Church has passed through the feast of Unleavened Bread (basic salvation) and the feast of Weeks (the Holy Spirit). God has kept the greatest feast for the last days, knowing that the tares of wickedness would come to maturity at that time. The greatest and climactic event, the actual coming of the Kingdom of God to us, for which all prior experiences are the necessary foundation, is the feast of Tabernacles.
The spiritual counterpart of the feast of Tabernacles is at hand. This is the provision God has made for survival and fruitfulness during the closing days of the present age. The believer dwelling to this extent in the Presence of God and Christ is able to overcome Antichrist and the great tribulation. But the believer who refuses to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow the Master, will be deceived by the Antichrist spirit and overcome by the pressures of the great tribulation.
In order to pass from the "Pentecostal" experience to the "Tabernacles" experience, if we wish to assign such titles, it is necessary to die to self. There must come a time when we tell the Lord that we wish to "die in the Lord," that we desire to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him wherever He may lead.
It is not enough to approach such a consecration in a vague manner, hoping to glide into it somehow. In order to be forgiven our sins we must make definite statements and take definite actions. In order to receive the Holy Spirit we must make definite statements and take definite actions. In order to die to our self-will and self-love we must make definite statements and take definite actions.
God deals with our self-love and self-will (the desire to save our life rather than to lose it in the Lord) by means of suffering. Suffering often takes the form of withholding from us that which we ardently desire or compelling us to continue in some situation that is painful or distasteful.
In order to withhold from us what we want, or to keep us in the prison of painful or unpleasant circumstances, God uses people or some other instrument of His choice. Whether we die to self and pass into the fullness of God depends on our reaction to the tools God uses. If we complain, blame people, force our way out of the prison God has placed us in, we can "save" our life (only to lose it later). We may become bitter against the people or tools God uses. But the worst result is that we open the gate for Satan to enter our personality and make us part of his synagogue.
There are numerous instances in most Christian churches of people who never have lost their life in the Lord. They save their life while continuing in Christian work. They are the source of contention, confusion, division, and strife in every assembly. Satan uses them to hinder God’s purposes in the local churches.
The believer who remains in God’s prison as cheerfully as possible, who turns to God whenever there is pain or frustration instead of blaming the tools God uses, enters the feast of Tabernacles. His adamic nature withers and dies and God and Christ live in him. He keeps on being crucified with Christ; nevertheless he keeps on living. But now it is Christ who is living in him. This is God’s provision for the last days.
The rest of God. The scriptural expression "the rest of God" parallels in meaning the feast of Tabernacles. The concept of the rest of God is that God created all things in six days and then He rested. Since that time the events of history have been following God’s rest and will continue until the descent to earth of the new Jerusalem. All things were finished at the time of the creation of the world.
What this means to you and me is that our life and our position in the Kingdom of God were mapped out at the time God created the heavens and the earth. Our task now is to enter God’s rest so our predetermined life and position can be achieved. This is the goal that has been set before us.
This does not mean we are to passively sit back and wait for it to happen. It requires the most intense consecration if we are to grasp that for which we have been grasped. We have to labor to enter the rest of God.
The Book of Hebrews is one long exhortation to experienced Jewish Christians to enter the rest of God, that is, into the spiritual fulfillment of the Old Testament feast of Tabernacles. These Hebrews Christians had been saved and filled with the Spirit. They had suffered persecution in that their property had been confiscated. But now, having been saved and filled with the Spirit of God, they were not pressing into the rest of God, into that place in God where His perfect will was being wrought in their life.
The Apostle warns them that they will not escape if they ignore their salvation by not pressing past the rudimentary principles of the Kingdom. They will not be a partaker of Christ if they do not keep pressing forward toward the land of promise, which is the rest of God.
And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? (Hebrews 3:18)
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. (Hebrews 4:1)
For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:10)
Dying in the Lord. After describing the torments that will come upon any individual that worships the Beast or his image or receives the mark of his name, the Scripture speaks of the blessing on the believer who dies in the Lord.
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. (Revelation 14:11-13)
The key to the interpretation of this passage is "from henceforth." From henceforth means it will be especially important to die in the Lord during the days of Antichrist. Many statements of the Book of Revelation must be interpreted symbolically and we think this is one of them.
Babylon, the great religious institution of the last day will have fallen. Now there will be an enormous temptation for the believer to become part of the world economic system. The only believer who will be able to survive and bear the fruit of Christ will be the one who dies in the Lord, that is, who lays down his own life that the life and fruitfulness of Christ might come forth through him.
Whatever else may be signified by worshiping the Beast and his image and receiving the mark of his name, we know it means participation in the world order. Paul warns us about this, telling us we must lay down our life at the altar of God.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1,2)
Can you see in the above passage that we must not be conformed to the spirit of the world but must present our body a living sacrifice? By dying in the Lord we escape the lure of the world, of Antichrist. To worship the Beast and his image and to take the mark of his name is the same as being conformed to this world.
This is why those who die in the Lord are blessed. Their works follow them just as God’s works follow Him. In actuality, when we die in the Lord it is the works of God that follow and that cannot be overcome by Antichrist or the great tribulation.
And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. (Revelation 9:6)
We also view this verse symbolically, presenting it as meaning that when people are being tormented by the plagues sent by the Lord they would take refuge in Christ if they could but no longer are able to do so. The filthy are forced to remain filthy. Let us keep in mind that the desire to repent and live righteously is a gift of God and it will be withdrawn at some point during the days of Antichrist’s power.
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:27)
The ceasing of the sacrifice and the oblation means the people of the cities of Antichrist will not be able to be saved or to receive the Holy Spirit.
The night when no man can work. There is coming a period of intense spiritual darkness when no believer will be able of his own ability to work the righteous works of God. Whatever is done will have to be performed by the Presence of God in him.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. (John 9:4)
Yet we know that during the reign of Antichrist mighty works will be performed in the name of the Lord.
And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. (Daniel 11:32)
Even though the spiritual night has come, "mighty works" will be performed by the saints. This is because they have died in the Lord and God is performing the works through them.
The godly remnant of saints will be driven from the cities of the earth by Antichrist. There will be no Christian testimony in those cities. This is what is meant in Revelation, Chapter Eleven when it speaks of the overcoming of the two witnesses. The bodies of the witnesses, the churches, Christian schools, and other institutions will still be present, but the witness will have been overcome.
Hidden away in the wilderness areas of the earth will be the godly remnant who have died in the Lord. Whoever would be saved must go out to them for salvation. The Holy Spirit no longer will be present in the centers of civilization.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. (Joel 2:32)
Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man (the King and His princes according to newer translations) shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. (Isaiah 32:1,2)
The Lord will be dwelling in Zion, in His people, in those days. Notice the power of God issuing through the remnant.
The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:16)
Let us now consider for a bit what the Lord Jesus had to say about saving and losing our life. The Lord’s statements concerning saving and losing our life are of such supreme importance that they are found in all four Gospel accounts.
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: (II Timothy 2:11,12)
The contexts of some of the following passages seem to be pointed toward the last days. Also, each passage tells us something about what it means to die in the Lord.
Now, here is a question that deserves careful thought. What is the relationship between the simple Good News of salvation through the blood, and the admonition to take up our cross and follow the Lord Jesus?
About all we hear preached these days is how to "get saved." The idea seems to be that if we will "accept Christ" we are saved and will go to Heaven when we die.
If such is the case, what about the statements of the Lord that we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him? Do these statements have any force at all? Are being saved and being a disciple two different things?
I asked this question at our last Tuesday night discipleship class. One person said, "Getting saved is like winning the lottery, and denying yourself and following the Lord is like going and picking up your winnings." The consensus of the class was that getting saved starts a person on the path of salvation but if he is to reap the rewards of the Kingdom he must keep the commandments of the Lord.
What do you feel is the relationship between "getting saved" and taking up one’s cross and following the Lord Jesus? After we get saved, is it absolutely necessary to be a disciple?—to lose one’s life for the Gospel’s sake? What do you think?
Let us examine the passages in the four Gospels that speak of saving and losing our life and see if we think they are an important part of being saved. If they are, then we need to make some changes in our preaching in America.
How many "saved" people would remain in your church if the Pastor told them that unless they denied themselves, took up their cross, and followed the Lord Jesus they could not be a disciple?—not a true Christian?
If we preach a watered-down Gospel to people in order to get them to attend church, at what point are we going to explain to them what it really means to be a Christian? Will we ever be able to tell them the truth without having them troop out of the church as fast as they entered? Are we selling people something without telling them what is in the package?
The Lord’s words are very strong in some instances. They reveal that the Gospel is not the Divine means of giving people everything they want but is slanted more toward God’s needs, God’s pleasure.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:37-39)
One aspect of dying in the Lord is to put the Lord ahead of every family member. We see also every believer has a cross to bear. He must lift it to his back and follow the Lord each day. Whoever does not do this is not worthy of the Lord.
We have to be worthy of the Lord.
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)
What about the believer who is unwilling to put the Lord ahead of all? Can he be saved without doing this?
Insisting on finding our life means clinging to those things we desire whether or not they are the Lord’s will for us to have them. Losing our life for Jesus’ sake means putting His will first in every matter. "Not my will but Yours be done."
Have you done this? Whatever you cling to you eventually will lose. Whatever you give to the Lord Jesus will finally be given back to you if it is for your eternal good.
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:21-26)
It was God’s will for Christ to suffer and it is God’s will that each believer suffer. We must share Christ’s suffering. Apart from suffering there is no Kingdom of God, no glorious future. When we turn away from suffering we are attempting to save our life. Then we become the prey of Satan just as was true of Peter.
We do not mean by this that we should not pray for God to remove what we do not want, or for God to give us what we do want. We always must tell the Lord what it is we desire, giving thanks in the meantime. Otherwise we will bear much needless pain. We have not because we ask not.
Letting our requests be made known to God is approved in the Scriptures. Forcing ourselves and others so we can escape from the prisons God places us in, is an attempt to save our life. In so doing we shall lose our life.
We cannot be a true saint of God apart from denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following the Master. Whoever does not do so makes himself the prey of Satan. In fact, God Himself will send a strong delusion on him.
And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:31-38)
Notice the emphasis on losing our soul. The Lord doesn’t seem to be stressing that our soul will go to Hell necessarily but that we shall lose it if we seek to pursue our own course. It sounds as though our soul is something that has been given to us by the Lord. If we in turn give it back to the Lord, denying ourselves our most fervent desires, remaining as patiently and as cheerfully as we can in the prison where the Lord places us, we will be given back our soul now crowned with eternal life and righteousness.
But if we cling to our soul, building bigger barns to hold the possessions we have gained, then somehow our soul is removed from us and we are left a naked spirit. Perhaps this is what it means by being saved as by fire. The spirit is saved in the Day of the Lord but enters the Kingdom (if the Lord chooses to save the individual) as a small child who, devoid of all Kingdom inheritance and glory, begins life once again.
Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:22-26)
The penalty for saving our life is to lose it, to lose ourselves, to be cast away. Even though we have gained the whole world we have lost everything of value to us. If in the process of attempting to save our life we worship the Beast or his image or receive the mark of his name, we put ourselves in danger of everlasting torment.
Every true saint must finally face his or her own Gethsemane. The final cross looms before us. We struggle with the angel until our name is changed from Jacob, the supplanter, to Israel, the struggler with God. We writhe on the cross as Adam cries out in death throes. But then comes the peace and holiness of God.
To avoid our Gethsemanes is to lose the Glory of God.
We must never deny Christ before men. Whatever painful cross is involved, we must never, never deny Christ before men. Sometimes we will be rejected by our family or by our fellow workers if we confess Christ and behave as a Christian. But if we deny Christ and are ashamed of Him, then He will deny us and be ashamed of us at His appearing.
Confessing Christ when it causes persecution is a form of losing our life. Can we deny Christ and still be saved? Must we lose our life in order to be saved?
In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:30-33)
Losing our life for Christ’s sake means being always ready to surrender our possessions. It is not possible to enter the Kingdom while we are clinging to our personal wealth.
Lot’s wife left her heart in Sodom with her house, her sons-in law, her neighbors. Where her heart was, there was her treasure. Not a great sin, we might say. But Mrs. Lot perished with the wicked. She lost her life because she attempted to save it.
The day may come when the Spirit of God warns us to flee. We must be ready always to obey the Lord. The slightest hesitation (after we are certain it is the Lord who is speaking) may result in our destruction. "Remember Lot’s wife"!
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. (John 12:24-26)
In the Kingdom, life comes from death. All true, eternal Kingdom ministry flows from the death of the one ministering. We are brought down to the point where we despair of life. Then we are raised. As we are raised the power that raises us spills over to other people and they come to life in the Lord.
The power of the Lord Jesus comes from His cross. It is Calvary, not Christ’s teachings as wonderful as they are, that saves the world.
The Apostle Paul wrote letters during his imprisonment. Those letters have influenced world civilization for two thousand years.
The same is true of you and me. If we follow the Lord and serve Him we will die to our own adamic nature but many people will live spiritually as a result. Then the Father will honor us.
But if we succeed in saving our own life we will die barren and alone. Because we have chosen to save our life we have lost everything of eternal value.
A dark hour is approaching during which no man can work the works of God. If in the present time we will choose to lay down our life, take up our cross, and follow the Master wherever He goes, we will be filled with all the fullness of God.
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)
It is the fullness of God that will be our survival and our fruitfulness during the age of moral horrors that is on the horizon.
The greatest of all revivals is now upon us. We can look for the Lord Jesus to work in our midst as never before. Unnumbered multitudes will hear the Gospel. Masses of people will be brought into the Kingdom.
The saints will go forth working signs and wonders never before seen on the earth. The "greater works" are at hand. Let us seek the Lord diligently that we may be among those who go forth into the harvest in whatever capacity the Lord selects for us.
If we will choose to lose our life rather than attempt to preserve it we will be filled with the fullness of God. No power of the enemy is able to overthrow that which is filled with God. We shall survive all that comes against us. Not a hair of our head will perish. We shall be strong and do exploits throughout the darkest of hours. The fruit that we bear will be abundant and eternal.
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1,2)