The Coming Storm

The contemporary church is focused on the expected final revival that, supposedly, will begin at any momentThis revival will be accompanied by unprecedented "signs and wonders” that will pave the way for Christ’s return. Moreover, these promised miraculous “signs" are now the rallying cry and raison d'ĂȘtre for many church leaders.

Storm Clouds over farm - Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash
[Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash]

I remain unconvinced. First, in many cases, these expectations are based on relatively recent “prophecies” often issued by disgraced “prophets.” Moreover, their “prophetic” track record, especially over the last two years, does not instill in me much confidence.

Second, the assumption that “signs and wonders” will convince millions of men and women who Jesus is and awe them to submit to his lordship stands in sharp tension with the story found in the four gospels.

Jesus performed many “signs and wonders,” yet they failed to convince anyone that he was the Son of God, including his closest disciples. Even after he calmed the violent storm on the Sea of Galilee, his dumbfounded and clueless disciples could only ask, "Who is this man?!" Only after his resurrection did they being to understand.

And in Mark's gospel, the only human who recognized Jesus as the Son of God was the centurion in charge of his execution, and at the very moment that he died. And despite performing deeds that, “if they may be written one by one, not even the world itself would have a place for the books written,” he died alone on that Roman cross, abandoned by his closest associates who had witnessed his great miracles.

Third, nowhere in the New Testament do I find any prediction of the final super revival characterized by mighty “signs and wonders” that will win the world to the Christian faith. What I do find are REPEATED warnings about coming deceivers, a final APOSTASY, and the arrival of the MAN OF LAWLESSNESS, and the latter two events will transpire before the “Day of the Lord” when the saints are gathered to Jesus.

Moreover, the New Testament warns that these coming deceivers will use “signs and wonders” to deceive the very “elect.” And that scriptural emphasis ought to give us pause when questionable prophets insist that God is about to pour out “signs and wonders” through their “ministries.”

In his discourse on the Mount of Olives, Jesus warned that “many deceivers” will come in his name and “deceive many.” And in the version recorded in Matthew, both times in the Greek sentence, “many” is emphatic. He was not talking about the occasional false teacher but a coming horde of charlatans and liars. And this group will include “false Christs” and “false prophets” who, among other things, will propagate false information about his return and use “great signs and wonders” to deceive believers - (Matthew 24:5, 23-27).

In the book of Revelation, the “false prophet” performs “great signs” that deceive many, causing them to give their allegiance to the “beast.” And Satan’s “war” is NOT waged against Israel or other nation-states, but instead, against the “saints,” the group identified as those who have the “faith of Jesus,” those who have his “testimony,” and those who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.”

And this final “war” does not just include persecution, but also deception in the churches by “false apostles,” the Nicolaitans, “Jezebel,” and the teachings of Balaam, all of whom teach saints to “eat things offered to idols,” and otherwise, to compromise with the surrounding society. And the “beast from the sea” who prosecutes this war for the “Dragon” is based on the figure called the “little horn” in Daniel, an evil ruler who “waged war against the saints and overcame them.”

The Apostle Paul was especially specific when writing to the Thessalonians. The “Day of the Lord” and the ‘parousia’ of Jesus will not come until two inextricably linked events occur – the “apostasy” and the “revelation of the man of lawlessness” when he “seats himself in the sanctuary of God.”

And consistently in the Greek scriptures, the term “apostasy” or ‘apostasia’ refers to the abandonment of the true faith. When Paul warned that this “lawless one” would deceive those who “refused the love of the truth,” he was referring to Christians who apostatized. That is borne out when he defined the “truth” as the “tradition you received” from him and his apostolic coworkers. THAT is the truth that will be rejected by these apostates, and perhaps many have done so already.

And like Revelation, Paul based his malevolent figure on the “little horn” from the book of Daniel, the “king of fierce countenance” who used his understanding of “dark sayings” and his “mighty power that was not his own” to “ruin the saints,” perverting many of them with his “flatteries” and promises. His wickedness reached its peak when he installed the “abomination that desolates” in the “sanctuary.”

That figure became the model for Paul’s “man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy” that he would foment. And we should take note that elsewhere the apostle CONSISTENTLY describes the church, the “body of Christ,” as the “sanctuary of God,” and not any stone building in old Jerusalem.

In my studies, this is what I find predicted in Scripture for days ahead, and any “revelation” received from angelic visitations, dreams, visions, prophetic pronouncements, ascents to the “third heaven,” or “monthly prognostications” that is contrary to it is NOT from the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In my mind, the only question remaining is whether this “apostasy” is coming or is already well underway. Considering the plethora of false prophecies from today’s self-anointed “apostles and prophets,” and their increasing resort to practices derived from the world of the occult, the more important question is whether the “man of lawlessness,” the “beast from the sea,” is almost upon us. And if we are approaching the day of his “revelation,” look for him to appear with the church.

But we are not without hope. The very fact that Jesus and his apostles warned of this coming deception means that we can avoid being overwhelmed by this coming darkness by heeding their words. And more specifically, Paul assured the Thessalonians that they would not be overtaken by the “lawless one” as long as they “held fast” to the apostolic tradition. And that “tradition” is preserved in the pages of the New Testament.

In short, learn the Word of God and cleave to it with everything within you regardless of what anyone else does or says, including any so-called prophet or apostle.

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