(Daniel 12:1) “…There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.”
It is one thing to talk about the time of Great Tribulation and what it will be like and what will happen during this short period of time that will mark the last three and a half years of this present age, but something else again to talk about how to prepare ourselves as bond slaves of the Lord Jesus for this time that will see signs in the constellations, anguish and perplexity among the nations of the earth on a scale unprecedented in past history, and never to be experienced again. (Matthew 24:21-22) It will also be a time of great tribulation for Israel that the nation will ultimately be delivered out of. (Daniel 12:1) (Jeremiah 30:1-10) It will be a time when whole nations will be in turmoil and tossed like ships in a surging stormy sea, a time when men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, because even the heavenly bodies will be shaken. Following this tempest the Lord Jesus will return to earth in great glory and power. (Luke 21:25-27) Nowhere does the Bible teach that faithful Christians will not be around for this time of Great Tribulation. In fact the faithful Body of the Messiah appears right through the whole of Book of Revelation. The Lord Jesus Himself tells us that “immediately after (not before) the tribulation (thlipsis) of those days, the elect will be gathered to meet the Lord Jesus in the air at His Second Coming. This is the rapture and resurrection of all the saints. (Matthew 24:29-31) (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
From the first century until the present day the faithful Body of the Messiah has experienced tribulation. As we discovered in our first study the word “tribulation” is the Greek word “thlipsis” and is used to describe “a pressing down or pressing together or being under pressure.” Metaphorically it means; “tribulation, affliction, trouble anguish, persecution, to be burdened and afflicted.” It is also used to define the persecution of believers. (Acts 14:22) The faithful Church has always been in tribulation (thlipsis) and it continues into the Book of Revelation. (Revelation 1:9) For the most part the Book of Revelation describes a time of Tribulation that increases in intensity and frequency as the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus the Messiah gets closer. This time of Tribulation includes Satan’s war against the saints, the judgements of God being sent to bring about repentance and spiritual restoration and only at the end of the Book of Revelation does it become the wrath of God. (Revelation 16:1)
The Greek word used to describe God’s wrath in the Book of revelation is “thumos” which describes; “an expression of passion, anger, heat and anger boiling over and then subsiding again.” It can be likened to one inflamed by wine to the point where they are filled with a passionate anger that is poured forth without restraint.” Of course God is never out of control as one is who is enflamed with wine, but it does express God’s passionate righteous anger against all sin and wickedness and His passion for holiness and righteousness being the catalyst that unleashes His wrath that has been stored up against an unrepentant, unsaved, Messiah hating, Messiah rejecting world. (Romans 2:5) Tribulation allows for a reprieve when there is genuine repentance but with wrath there in no reprieve. Tribulation has always been here since the time of the apostles but in these last days it is increasing in intensity and frequency and will come to its peak in the last three and a half years of this present age.
How then do we as bond slaves of our Lord Jesus prepare ourselves for this time of great trial and testing and persecution? Even though there will be places of refuge for some, for most faithful Jews and by extension and inclusion faithful Christians, there will be no refuge other than trusting ones soul to a faithful creator as they draw upon His supernatural power to endure as they suffer according to His permissive will. (1 Peter 4:12-19) As Daniel also writes; “Many will be purified, made spotless, and refined, but the wicked will continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand.” (Daniel 12:10) So then let’s look at the subject “Preparing for the time of Great Tribulation.” What are we to do? How are we to prepare ourselves?
1. We need to cleanse ourselves from everything that defiles body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
(2 Corinthians 7:1) “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
We live in a world where everything is geared to defile us spiritually as believers especially through television and the internet. The whole world is geared up to pamper to the dictates of the flesh and to destroy anything that is of true spiritual value Biblically. If we would keep ourselves pure in mind and body then we must renounce and forsake anything that would defile our conscience and defile our imagination. By rejecting our conscious we run the risk of making shipwreck of our faith. As Paul writes to Timothy; “holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and thereby shipwrecked their faith.” (1Timothy 1:19) There are many “hidden reefs” that can only be exposed by ‘the sonar readings’ from the Bible.
If we would spiritually survive we must consciously engage in resisting the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life every day. What books and magazines do we read? What movies do we watch? What do we look at on the internet? What kind of conversations do we allow ourselves to indulge in? What kind of company do we keep? How do we handle the imaginations and the hidden thoughts of our hearts? Reading, studying and obeying God’s word is our only safeguard against the world, the flesh and the devil. (Psalm 119:9-11) We must cry out to God to enable us to turn away from worthless things and to renew our lives daily through the Word of God. (Psalm 119:37) God’s word will teach us knowledge and good judgement if we believe in His commands to do that for us. (Psalm 119:66)
Every believer in the Lord Jesus has two natures. We have the old sinful nature and the new spiritual nature and they are constantly at war within us. (Galatians 5:16-18) The nature we feed the most every day is the one that will ultimately control us. How we react to these two natures will either strengthen us or weaken us spiritually and weaken our power and resolve to resist Stan in the time of Tribulation that is coming when it will be much harder to resist him and his power that it is even now. How we prepare ourselves now spiritually will determine our spiritual survival when the time of deep spiritual darkness engulfs the whole world. This is why we must have a practical working knowledge of God’s Word. It will keep us from evil. As King David writes; “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:165)
As the author of Hebrews writes; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance (perseverance) the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) This is how we perfect holiness out of reverence for God. We must divest ourselves of those things that belong to our old sinful nature that constantly demand our attention and are compounded by the lust and desires of our fleshly carnal nature especially as we seek to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus live in this fallen world.
Our Lord Jesus is the author and perfector (finisher) of our faith and what He starts He intends to finish. We must fix our eyes on Him and strive to keep His commandments as revealed in His Word. As we, through faith, submit our wills to His infinitely sensitive, loving and divine will and obey the Word of God through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, we will successfully complete God’s will for our life. Through His Spirit in us He will enable us to endure and to persevere to the end but we must be willing to lay aside every weight and sin that easily besets us and trips us up and anything we know displeases Him and hinders our fellowship with Him and that keeps us from standing firm in all of God’s will. Our Lord Jesus said “if you love Me keep My commandments.” This is not an appeal to the human emotions but to the action of the human will.
2. We need to put on the full armour of God everyday. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
A Roman soldier on campaign in enemy territory did not take off any of his armour but stood ready to resist an attack from the enemy which could happen at any time. God has provided spiritual armour for us. Every day we need to put on the whole armour of God piece by piece making it a personal prayer. Only by using the spiritual armour and weapons the LORD has provided for us will we be able to pulldown the spiritual strongholds in our own lives and in the lives of others. As Paul writes; “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the fleshly nature but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments (imaginations) and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) The imagination must be garrisoned at all times. Paul writes; “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) For every born again believer the battle field is the mind.
3. We need to be praying continuously by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Jude 1:20-21) “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously (eagerly) for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”
God has given us a wonderful, loving, sensitive, and divine friend, counsellor, guide and enabler in the blessed Holy Spirit. He is one who is called alongside to strengthen us and to pray for us and with us and in place of us when adequate words fail. He knows what to pray and how to pray and what needs to be said and done according to God’s perfect will. (Romans 8:26-27) Praying in the Holy Spirit will do three things for us spiritually. Firstly It will build us up in our most holy faith Secondly It will keep us walking in the love of God and thirdly create is us a desire for the Lord Jesus’ return. We can pray in a known or an unknown tongue in this matter and we will be edified in doing this but our will and the tongue must be submitted to the will of God and under the control of the Holy Spirit at all times when praying in the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:2) (1 Corinthians 14:22) (Ephesians 5:18-21)
When the time of great tribulation comes we will need the ministry and intercession of the blessed Holy Spirit to sustain and keep us through the time of trial that is coming upon the whole world. We must cultivate prayer in the Holy Spirit now as this will prepare us and strengthen us for the time of tribulation that is to come. This will enable us to wait expectantly and be on the lookout for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus to bring the eternal life already dwelling in us to its complete fullness. We are in fact to pray about everything. There is no request too great or too small for God to attend to. In fact Paul writes; “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard (garrison) your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Anxiety, fear and apprehension are all enemies to faith and must be overcome and the LORD knows this. He allows situations to confront us, not to destroy our faith, but to develop it and the way He does this is by leading us to his Word for He knows that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Our present tests and trials are preparing us for what lies down the track when the real time of tribulation comes. Already most believers in the Lord Jesus in the world are already experiencing tribulation (thlipsis). During the time of Great Tribulation it will intensify.
4. We need to be praying for others.
(Ephesians 6:18) “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Paul had just written about putting on the full armour of God but adds to this the importance of staying alert and praying for other believers. One way to do this is to have a prayer list. You cannot pray for everyone in the world personally by name but you can have specific people listed that you can pray for daily and regularly. Praying for others will bring God’s blessing to us. Pray takes time and patience but in the end it saves time. Pray does not come naturally to us at times and it is a spiritual discipline that must be cultivated on a regular basis. The best time is when you are most alert and can give God the time that is rightly His. One of the benefits of praying in the Holy Spirit is that we can reach out to the LORD even when words are hard to express or fail us. In praying for others we may not know what their needs are but when we pray in the Holy Spirit He goes to work interceding for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)
At times praying for others will be hard work. Paul writes concerning Epaphras his colleague, “Epaphras who is one of you and a bond slave of the Messiah Jesus, sends you greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in the full will of God. For I testify about him that he goes to great pains for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.” (Colossians 4:12-13) Some within the Body of the Messiah have the gift of intercessory prayer and Epaphras may well have had this ministry of intercession. However, notice he was constantly “wrestling in prayer for others.” In fact he went to “great pains” in prayer for others. Satan will distract us in this matter. We may well pray for ourselves and our needs but when it comes to praying for others we need to persevere in this spiritual discipline.
Prayer for others must be cultivated. It does not come naturally because we are by nature self-centred. We have all received the benefits of the prayers others have offered up to God for us and others need our prayers as well. In the time of Great Tribulation we will need to know how to pray for our brothers and sisters knowing that they are passing through the same kind of suffering and trials that we are. (1 Peter 4:12-14, 19) God has not left us ‘orphans’ but has given us a wonderful counsellor comforter, fortress of strength, guide and the best divine friend we can ever have on earth in the blessed Holy Spirit. He knows what needs to be said and how it should be said because He is God and one with God and knows God’s will in everything and prays accordingly. (Romans 8:27)
5. We need to trust the LORD at all times
(Proverbs 3:5-6) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”
As Jesus’ bond slaves we need to learn how to trust the LORD in all of the changing circumstances of life. We trust in Him to save us and to keep us and rightly so as “He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to Him by faith” but we must also trust Him by taking Him at His word every day even though our circumstances remain the same. This is what our father of faith Abraham did. He not only believed in the LORD when God revealed Himself to him when he was still in Ur of the Chaldeans, he also believed the LORD, counting upon Him to fulfil what He had promised, and by that faith he was declared to be a righteous man by God Himself. (Genesis 15:6). We need to prove this for ourselves as if our life depended on it which it does.
Every day we are faced with situations that require us to trust God. Instead of seeing them as obstacles we need to see them as opportunities to trust God and His word and that are preparing us for the tribulation to come. There will be times when God allows us and our loved ones and other brothers and sisters in Jesus to suffer and this is not easy to handle or to come to terms with easily. In such circumstances we are not to lean on our own understanding, trying to work out why it has happened, but to keep trusting Him in everything no matter what and He will direct our paths into His good acceptable and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2)
In fact we are told in the Bible that living in the Kingdom of God does not consist in only what we eat or drink but in righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17) This is the peace (shalom) of God that transcends all human understanding when understanding is absent. We can be in trying circumstances but still know the Shalom of God in our spirit. For as it is written; “But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17) It takes time and patience and perseverance to trust the LORD with all of our heart and especially for those dear brothers and sisters who did not have a close relationship with their earthly father. Whether our circumstances are good or not so good and we are confronted with anxiety we must not lean on our own feelings but only on the unchanging Word of the Living God. This will enable us to stand when the time of Great Tribulation hits the world and the Body of the Messiah globally.
6. We need to prepare our minds to suffer for the Lord Jesus’ sake.
(1 Peter 1:13) “Therefore prepare your minds for action. Be sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
In the western democracies the faith prosperity, have it good in this world preachers and the Kingdom Dominion teachers in their assemblies are not preparing God’s people for what is coming to the western church before our Lord Jesus comes back. The pre-tribulation rapture is still ‘all the rage’ in most Bible prophecy circles today and yet it is not taught in scripture. In most of the third world countries and in developing countries such as China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq and in Turkey our faithful brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus are being imprisoned tortured and killed for their faith in the Lord Jesus every day.
Today persecution of the faithful followers of the Lord Jesus is almost in epidemic proportions especially right throughout the Islamic world. During the time of Great Tribulation it will become widespread in virtually every nation to a greater or lesser degree. What worse things can the hordes of the antichrist do than what has been perpetrated by ISIS? It can only become more widespread. The pre-tribulation rapture doctrine goes down well in western democracies that are not suffering persecution and have it good in this world materially speaking but what will those, who embrace this secret pre-tribulation rapture do, who were taught that they would not even have to see the antichrist? What will they do when this man of sin appears on the world stage and they are still here? What will those pastors who have taught such a doctrine tell their flock? The apostle Paul taught that the faithful Body of the Messiah would still be here when the man of sin is revealed. If that was not to be the case then who was Paul referring to if the Body of the Messiah was no longer to be here on earth? (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
Did not the Lord Jesus Himself say; “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” (John 15:18-21)
Some of us are destined for martyrdom, others for prison, others for deprivation of work and material possessions and some for escape but we must all prepare our minds, our thinking to be sober and vigilant in considering this matter to accept whatever God has ordained for us within his sovereign purposes. Suffering for the Lord Jesus is God’s will. (1 Peter 4:1-2, 19) As it is written; “through much tribulation (thlipsis) we must enter the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) And again it is written; “Everyone who seeks to live a godly life in the Messiah Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 2:12)
Now to deliberately seek to be persecuted is not normal. Our Lord Jesus Himself said at one time that if we can escape it we should and that we should use the opportunity to spread the gospel of the Kingdom. He said; “You will be hated by everyone on account of My name, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.” (Matthew 10:22-23a) For some this will not be possible and to these God will give His abundant strength to pass through the dark doorway of death to rise again to a glorious resurrection. (Revelation 20:4) You know when a soldier is enlisted into the army there is no guarantee that he will not be shot at or wounded or even killed. In God’s army it is the same. Whatever lies ahead for us God’s abundant grace will have already gone ahead of us to prepare the ground. There have been times some pastors have had the opportunity to escape but have chosen to stay for the sake of the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers. (Acts 20:28) Today in the western democracies where the hyper faith prosperity gospel and Kingdom Dominion theology has taken root we have so many ‘hirelings’ but very few shepherds willing to lay down their lives daily for the sheep.
7. We need to cast all of our anxieties on the LORD.
(2 Peter 5:7-9) “Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
King David was a mighty man of God who saw God do many marvellous things but at times he suffered extreme anxiety. At such times he found the comfort and strength of God to be more than sufficient for the anxiety that had taken its grip on him. He writes; “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fail.” (Psalm 55:22) and again he writes; “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4) Another Psalmist wrote; “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” (Psalm 94:19) King Solomon wrote; “Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)
Anxiety is a weapon Satan uses as he prowls around seeking someone to devour. He already has the unsaved in his hand and he is not concerned about them but he is concerned about you and me who belong to the LORD and no longer belong to Satan. He roars like a lion but his teeth have been pulled out at the cross. He can come against us but never prevail against us if we trust the LORD and keep casting all of our anxieties on Him. God has very broad shoulders. As King David also writes; “The Lord is the strength of his people; He is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.” (Psalm 28:8-9) Satan may succeed in persecuting us physically and assaulting our minds and toying with our emotions and even having us killed but he cannot touch our spirit where God’s Spirit also lives. We can resist Satan with the shield of faith and if we keep holding it up he will flee. (James 4:7) 9. Added to this when we wave the sword of the Spirit being the Word of God in Satan’s direction he takes a wide path around us because he hates that sword that will defeat him every time it is used and that without fail!
8. We need to keep a loose hand on everything we have and be prepared to lose it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus.
(Hebrews 10:32-36) “Remember the early days that you were in the light, when you endured a great conflict in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to ridicule and persecution; at other times you were partners with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you yourselves had a better and permanent possession. So do not throw away your confidence; it holds a great reward. You need to persevere, so that after you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”
In the early days of the Wesleyan Methodist assemblies established by John Wesley in England at times there were mobs often led by unsaved Anglican clergymen who stormed into the houses of the Bible believing Methodists destroying and ransacking their possessions and taking them away. One of the anomalies of the mega-churches into the miracles, signs and wonders, hyper faith and kingdom dominion theology is that they are not suffering persecution. This is not the norm when you look at the first century Body of the Messiah and in the light of Church history. Quite frankly the Devil is not even concerned about those churches into hyper faith, prosperity and kingdom dominion theology. The churches he hates and persecutes the most are those often struggling assemblies that do not have much materially speaking but are rich in the preaching of the Word of God and whose pastors are rightly dividing the Word of God and seeking to see souls save and saints sanctified whether there are signs accompanying the preaching of the Word or not!
Now the Bible teaches is that God does give us what we need every day and at times He gives us more than we need. As Paul writes; “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Peter writes; “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) While god does not give us what we want He will always give us what we need both spiritually and materially.
The spiritual must come first. Did not our Lord Jesus himself say; “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:30-34) He also said; “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
Many today seek God for material blessings, healing and to see miracles, signs and wonders but very few today hunger and thirst after the righteousness that God requires and imparts to all who live by faith even though they may be poor materially by the standard of the world. If God can provide what we need today then He will surely provide for us tomorrow and especially when we enter the time of Great Tribulation (thlipsis) We not see how this could happen now but when it does happen we will see God provide for us in supernatural ways as He did for Elijah when God supernaturally sent the ravens to bring food to that tired, beleaguered and persecuted prophet. If He did this for Elijah will He not do it for us?
We do enjoy the things God has given us and this is a blessing from God and He expects us to use things wisely but to keep a loose hand of these things because they are temporal and subject to change. During the time of Great Tribulation many will lose their material possessions and comfortable lifestyles. Having said this where there is great deprivation for the saints who stay faithful to the Lord Jesus no matter what in this world there will be a greater anointing of the Spirit. The apostle peter writes; “If you are insulted for the name of the Messiah you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:14) We need to be living as simply as possible. The more we have the harder it will be to give it all up.
9. We need to keep serving God, witnessing and give to others.
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58) “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast and immovable. Always excel in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”
Paul writing to the assembly at Rome said; “Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation (thlipsis), be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:11-13) If we preservers in serving the Lord Jesus and doing the will of God from our heart now while it is still ‘day’ then when ‘night’ comes we will be empowered to keep serving Him even though it will much more difficult to do so then than it is now. We are assured we have the victory in the Messiah and in light of this we must remain steadfast and immovable and excel and abound and continue in what God has called us to do in our service, our witnessing and ministry for Him. We are assured that our labour in Him and by His power it will not be in vain.
As the author of Hebrews writes; “For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10:34-36)
10. We need to maintain fellowship.
(Hebrews 10:23-25) “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
It has been said “If we cannot stand together we will never stand alone!” If you take a burning coal away from the other burning coals it will gradually lose its heat and become cold because it no longer has the heat being generated from the other coals to keep it warm. Sadly there are many individual believers who are not in fellowship anywhere. They may have their reasons and genuine ones at that but this is no excuse for not seeking fellowship. Fellowship does not always mean attending the local church but if you have several believers worshipping and praying together regularly in a home then that is fellowship according to the Bible. In many countries today house fellowships are the only spiritual haven for many persecuted saints around the globe. This will become the pattern for the last days Body of the Messiah.
Fellowship can and should be spiritually powerful and effective in changing our life and spiritual perspective on things. Our Lord Jesus Himself said; “Again, I tell you truly that if two of you on the earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20) To agree in the Greek text is “to harmonize” such as happens when the instruments in an orchestra are played in harmony and in unison with each other. When there is harmony with believers meeting together, even though it may be two or three only, the Lord Jesus is present with them through the Holy Spirit and will answer their corporate prayer and sometimes in a very powerful way. (Acts 4:31)
Regular fellowship in the power of the Holy Spirit around the Word of God and the Passover Meal is very powerful spiritually and will edify and encourage those who participate in this fellowship. In fact the time is coming to the western democracies when house fellowships will be the norm for Bible believing Christians. What we see in the Book of Acts will happen again and is happening already all around the world. When reading the Book of Acts we are not only reading past history but future history as well. Fellowship also provides for individual believers to confess their hopes and the scriptures that they might not waver from their faith. Added to this fellowship provides spiritual stimulation and the motivation to keep faithful to the Lord Jesus and to keep working for God.
All of us need to be stimulated to practice love and good deeds to one another which fellowship in the Holy Spirit provides. Added to this fellowship in the Holy Spirit provides the opportunity for believers to confess their sins one to another and to pray for one another that they might be healed and spiritually restored. As James writes; “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.” (James 5:16)
Now there are exceptions. There may be a brother or sister in a certain situation where fellowship with other believers is not possible and so fellowship with the Father and with the Son and with the Holy Spirit is vitally important to that believer’s spiritual survival. Another case is where a believer is in prison and cut off from fellowship with other believers and they have to rely solely on the Lord Jesus to enjoy fellowship with Him and with the Father and with the blessed Holy Spirit. In all other situations we must find a fellowship and God will lead us to the right one if we trust Him. We may have a time while searching and at this time keeping our relationship with the Lord fresh is also vitally important to our spiritual health and survival. Even if we are meeting with our family members or with two or three other brothers or sisters it is fellowship.
“Your light has come!”
Dark days are ahead for Israel, for the faithful Body of the Messiah and for the world at large but the prophet Isaiah writes; “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:1-3) As things get spiritually darker in the world during this time of Great Tribulation (thlipsis) God’s redeemed people will shine ever more brightly. How far off this end-time period of Great Tribulation remains to be seen but with conditions rapidly deteriorating in the Middle-East and with the wholesale backslidden state of the western church by and large, the end is drawing nearer.
To sum up:
We need to be preparing ourselves by cleansing ourselves from everything that defiles body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God and by putting on the full armour of God every day and be praying continuously by the power of the Holy Spirit and praying for others as well. We need to trust the LORD at all times and be preparing our minds to suffer for the Lord Jesus’ sake and be casting all of our anxieties on Him, keeping a loose hand on everything we have and be prepared to lose it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus. Added to these things we need to keep serving God and giving to others, continue witnessing and maintain our fellowship with other believers. Now is the time to keep trusting and serving the LORD keeping in mind the words of our Lord Jesus who said; “While it is daytime, we must do the works of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4)