The Word says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15). Jesus warned, “Beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
Things—our possessions—can tie us down to this world. While heaven and hell prepare for war, we go shopping. Eternal values are at stake! The end of all we know is near—and we are busy playing with our toys!
Scripture says of Noah’s day, “They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark” (Matthew 24:38). And of Lot’s day, “They bought, they sold, they planted, they builded” (Luke 17:28).
Now this activity wasn’t evil in and of itself. I’m sure Noah himself had to buy and sell. After all, he was in a building program for 120 years! But the key here is that the people did all these things even up to the day of judgment so no one was heeding, listening, preparing. No one was letting go of the spirit of bondage to material pleasures!
A missionary friend recently wrote from Hong Kong that he had eighteen Chinese students sleeping in his tiny apartment. The students, who were fleeing Communism, had no money and possessed only the clothes they were wearing.
These Christians are an example of people who have “let go.” They weren’t escaping their country because they want Western materialism. Rather, they simply wanted to be set free! They wanted to live in a country where the soul is free to worship!
By contrast, the Church is not escaping but digging in—to its TVs, its VCRs, its conveniences, its “good life.”
Ringing in my soul are those awesome words that Jesus gave to His servants when He said that for every idle word “they shall give account” (Matthew 12:36). If we must give account of every word, will we not be called to account for idle time and wasted money as well?
We all are going to stand before the Lord and give account. So we had better ask ourselves now: What are our reasons? Why are we so ill-prepared? Why so selfish? Why so wasteful?
“Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12).
Listen with your spirit to these words: Satan knows his time is short, for he has “come down” to the earth. This planet is the final battleground! He has prepared his forces, and his strategy is underway. All of hell is one big, satanic operations network!
Beloved, Satan’s main object is the elect of God. It is not the backslidden, apostate nation of Israel, nor a lukewarm, self-satisfied Church but rather, the spotless Bride of Christ! An elect, holy people consisting of blood-bought Jews and Gentiles—the true Church!
Satan is going to so thoroughly deceive the wicked that they will not repent even under the most severe judgment of God. “Spirits of devils, working miracles . . . to gather them to the battle of . . . God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). They will not turn back to the Lord even if hell stares them in the eye. Only a people who are totally deceived could blaspheme God under a scorching sun that consumes!
The whole point of my message is this: While all heaven and hell have been put on alert, and everywhere in the spiritual realm the preparations are furious for the final hour, millions of Christians are fast asleep! This last-days spiritual sloth and sleepy unconcern have to be a source of bewilderment to both angels and demons!
The disciples slept through the Lord’s agony in the garden, and not much has changed today. Those followers were not prepared. They slept, and then they forsook the Lord and fled.
John the Baptist went before Jesus “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). The apostle John saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, consisting of a people “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). Beloved, the Word is crystal-clear: We are to be prepared!
We are living in the days of final preparation. In heaven, in hell and on earth, tremendous activity is erupting as all of creation anticipates the culmination of man’s history.
If the Holy Spirit were to pull the scales from our eyes, we believers would be both joyful and horrified at what we saw. We would cry out, “What is going on? Why is everyone rushing about so determined, so intense? What is about to happen?”
Right now the heavens are ablaze with anticipation! Without question, a final conflict is coming—a time when every enemy will be put under our Lord’s feet. God is busily preparing!
If the veil separating the physical and spiritual could be lifted for a moment, what a sight we would behold! Everywhere we looked we would see preparations taking place. These preparations can be seen only as we are allowed glimpses into the eternal. And, without speculating, we can see what God has revealed in His Word about this final preparation taking place in heaven.
Revelation 6:1 says the Lamb opened one seal, and there was “the noise of thunder.” But following this is one of the most mind-boggling statements in all of God’s Word: “There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (Revelation 8:1).
No angelic being cried, “Holy, holy!” No choirs sang—not a single sound was heard in all of God’s eternal kingdom! The heavens literally shook with a holy thunder but then God was silent. Christ and His Holy Spirit were silent. Why this silence? And why half an hour?
The prophet Zechariah provides a clue: “And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation” (Zechariah 2:12-13).
Here we see God ready to claim His inheritance. All things have been put into place. Seven judgment-angels stand before Him, waiting to be given assignments to go forth and smite the earth. The time that was appointed from the foundation of the world has now come.
The words used in Scripture here speak of a holy hush, a great calm before the storm. And this silence is too holy, too incomprehensible for human minds. We can’t even speculate as to why, in this period just prior to the final judgment, God in His heaven is silent.
Let me ask you a simple question: Have you been set free? You probably think, “Of course! I’ve been redeemed and made holy by Jesus, and I live for Him. That’s every believer’s testimony.”
Now here’s a follow-up question: Does your everyday life reflect the glorious freedom you’ve just described? Would your friends, your spouse, your children say that you’ve been set free? Or are you like multitudes of Christians who feel they’re on a spiritual seesaw? Is your walk with Christ continually up and down, seemingly spiritual one moment and carnal the next?
We accept by faith the great theological truths about Jesus’ work for us—salvation, redemption, sanctification, deliverance. Yet for many of us, these are “spiritual truths” that exist in another world. We sing and rejoice at church over what Jesus has done for us—but is His gift of freedom a reality in our daily lives?
At times we all struggle to remain pure in thoughts and actions. Whenever we fail in our walk with God—which is often—we wonder, “Has God really set me free?” If your answer to that is no—if you feel stuck in an up-and-down life—maybe you worry about your standing with God. Perhaps at times you even question your salvation. Friend, that isn’t freedom. So what does it really mean to be set free in Christ?
The first evidence of this comes from Jesus, who says, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? . . . Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:27, 33).
Lately I’ve been anxious about something very real: my age! When I was in my twenties, I looked at my dad in his fifties and thought, “He’s so ancient.” Now that I’ve reached my fifties and am well into the second half of life, I’m starting to freak out. What does Jesus say to me in my worries? “Gary, can you add a single hour to your span of life? Don’t be anxious.”
Christ offers the same words to all of us who fret about our spiritual lives: Don’t be anxious. Regardless of how broken down and teetering you feel about your walk with Him, He declares, “You are a new creation.” The moment you chose to follow Jesus, He made you new—and that never changes. Even when you think you’ve strayed too far, Jesus says the opposite: “Don’t be anxious. I have provided everything you need to have fellowship with Me."
Revivals have never been dominated by eloquent or clever preaching. If you had timed the meetings of old with a stopwatch, you would have found far more minutes given to prayer, weeping and repentance than to sermons. In the “Prayer Meeting Revival” of 1857-59 there was virtually no preaching at all. Yet it apparently produced the greatest harvest of any spiritual awakening in American history: estimates run to 1,000,000 converts across the United States, out of a national population at that time of only 30,000,000. That would be proportionate to 9,000,000 today falling on their knees in repentance.
How did this happen? A quiet businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier started a Wednesday noon prayer meeting in a Dutch Reformed church here in New York City, no more than a quarter mile from Wall Street. The first week, six people showed up. The next week, twenty came. The next forty . . . and then they decided to have daily meetings.
“There was no fanaticism, no hysteria, just an incredible movement of people to pray,” reports J. Edwin Orr. “The services were not given over to preaching. Instead, anyone was free to pray.”
During the fourth week, the Panic of 1857 hit; the bond market crashed, and the first banks failed. (Within a month, more than 1400 banks had collapsed.) People began calling out to God more seriously than ever. Lanphier’s church started having three noontime prayer meetings in different rooms. John Street Methodist Church, a few doors east of Broadway, was packed out as well. Soon Burton’s Theater on Chambers Street was jammed with 3,000 people each noon.
The scene was soon replicated in Boston, New Haven, Philadelphia, Washington, and cities throughout the southern United States. By the next spring 2,000 Chicagoans were gathering each day in the Metropolitan Theater to pray. A young 21-year-old, newly arrived in the city, felt his first call to do Christian work in those meetings. He wrote his mother that he was going to start a Sunday school class. His name? Dwight L. Moody!
Does anyone really think that America today is lacking preachers, books, Bible translations, and neat doctrinal statements? What we really lack is the passion to call upon the Lord until He opens the heavens and shows Himself powerful.
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn and longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson, Cymbala is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.