“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Matthew 23:37–24:5
The whole focus of the disciples was on the organization of the time. Even though they had walked year after year with Christ, they really had become somewhat conditioned to the belief that the system could dictate to God, and not that God would direct the system. They were more concerned with the organization than with the mission. As a result, when Jesus spoke about the temple, they had more faith in the temple than in God, and attempted to correct Him. They said, What do you mean that your house is left unto you desolate? And Jesus said, Listen, not one stone is going to be left upon another. This really confused the disciples when Jesus prophesied that the very temple, the center of their worship, would be destroyed. They wanted to know when these things would happen and what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the world.
Jesus began by giving them a universal sign. He gave them the signs in things that existed in heaven and the signs that have existed all throughout creation ever since man was here. He first warned about deception. “Let no man deceive you.” What man can deceive us best? It is self-deception. Deception is what caused the angels to be thrown out of heaven.
In Revelation 12:4 it says, “And his [the devil’s] tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.” The devil drew with his tail one-third of the heavenly angels. I praise God that the appeals of Jesus caused some to turn, but still one-third is billions and billions of angels.
The Bible is explicit on what his tail represents: “The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.” Isaiah 9:15. The tail would represent lies or deceit. Here the devil deceived all of these angels into believing him. The prophet of God tells us that at first they did not believe him but sympathized with him. They really got caught up in business that really wasn’t theirs. They felt sorry for him and started listening to him and before they knew it, they were cast out of heaven. Satan would love to go back to heaven.
It was amazing to me what I read in The Story of Redemption. When Satan saw an angel, he would tell him to come and when the angel came, he would ask that angel to go get Jesus for him and the angel went to get Christ. Satan then pleads with Christ to be able to come back to heaven offering to take any position, but Jesus wept at his woe—it broke His heart, because Satan could no longer be trusted. Heaven is based on trust. The Bible says that, “Iniquity will not raise its head again.” Sin is not coming back. In heaven we will not lose our ability to sin; we will just choose not to do it. Our love and appreciation for God will place us where we would never, ever consider doing anything contrary to His word. It will not be a forced thing.
Satan is the great deceiver; he even tried to deceive Jesus. Knowledge of the prophecies in the Word of God are landmarks to let us know where we are in time. At the end of Jesus’ life He knew that the only thing He could trust in was His Father and the Word. While nailed to the cross He knew that Judas would throw down the ransom money he received from the priests and rulers and that it would be used to purchase the potter’s field (Zechariah 11). He knew the prophecies!
We do not know who will stand when severely tested. Each of us needs to be sure that our faith is strong. All through the trial of Jesus, He continued loving his disciples while He watched them look from a distance. Then, while hanging there and in the final moments of His life He experienced what David had prophesied many years before. Psalm 22 says that dogs encompassed him and that He could feel pain all through His body. They took His clothes and cast lots for them. Everybody ran out on Him. Jesus looked and He heard the conversation of the soldiers planning to split up His garments. Jesus knew what the prophecy had said.
The devil tries to manipulate prophecy, but he cannot. If you will notice in Matthew 24:29–31 it says, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” These events happen right before the coming of the Lord.
When all of the disciples comment on the same thing, it is something really worth paying attention to. Look at Mark 13:24–27. It says, “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”
Again, Jesus said that certain things are going to transpire. These prophecies are landmarks. It first said there would be signs, an earthquake, then a sign in the sun, then a sign in the moon and signs in the stars.
Right now, we are living during the sixth seal, between the signs in the heavens and the coming of the Lord. Revelation 6:12–17 says, “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
We know that on November 1, 1755, there was the great Lisbon earthquake. I believe that this fulfilled prophecy. Remember this great earthquake came just before 1798. Something big was going to happen in 1798. God started revealing these prophecies so that His people would understand that He was soon coming. There were three earthquakes, one at 9:00 a.m., one at 10:00 a.m. and one at 12:00 noon. At 9:00 a.m. people became afraid and at 10:00 a.m. they were really scared and by 12:00 noon they ran to the church to pray and thousands died there in church. God is not the author of fear. When these things happen we ought to get excited and exclaim that our redemption draweth nigh (Luke 21:28). We need to be resting in Christ, understanding what it means to rest in Christ and believe that He will keep us from falling and that He can save us, and not have a deceptive belief, while living in a known sin. This is not resting in Christ.
In Christ there is no sin, because the mind of Christ literally dwells in you. It is to have the faith of Jesus. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. It is literally Christ’s faith activated in my life. I don’t have the faith to believe that God is going to open up a body of water for me to walk across which is contrary to everything my humanity knows. But He has the faith and He is willing to activate that faith in our lives. You will never get that experience unless you go to God and plead for it.
Preachers started preaching that the Lisbon earthquake was a sign of the coming of the Lord and people believed. In 1780 when all of a sudden at noon time the sun went black like a light bulb that went out and the cattle started heading back to the barn, people became afraid. That night the moon became as blood. Preachers were preaching, churches were full and the people believed that it was a sign of the coming of the Lord. The Lord has given us these signs specifically for a reason.
In 1833 when the stars fell there were preachers, including William Miller, preaching all over the world that the Lord was coming. When they saw the stars fall, they looked at Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 and Revelation 6 and they said Jesus has to come, because the prophecy said that after these stars would fall, He would come. What happened? 1844 came and Jesus did not come to this earth, but went into the Most Holy Place in heaven. Prophecy was fulfilled, but the people did not understand it until a little later when God revealed more light.
An important Scripture to understand is Ezekiel, chapter 8. Ezekiel was not preaching to the heathen but to God’s people. The church was in sin and God sent an angel who grabbed Ezekiel by the lock of his hair and suspended him between earth and heaven and showed him the people of God. Ezekiel was a true Christian and he did not want to see sin and he tried to turn. He saw all of these abominations and his heart was broken. The angel kept telling him to look further and finally, notice what he saw in verse 16: “And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.”
Ezekiel saw that God’s people were involved with sun worship. That is when he said it was time for the destroying angel to do his work. If you don’t believe that our people have been deceived, and they have bought into this Ecumenical Movement, it is time to open your eyes. I don’t study what the churches are doing because I am too busy working myself. But, I do know that when we have a Catholic cardinal open our General Conference session with prayer, something is wrong. At the last General Conference session, why, at the parade of nations, does the Vatican have a flag? Italy was there. God is trying to show us something but some of us still will not agonize with God. We still refuse to get our lives in order so that the Holy Spirit can use us to be effective workers for God. When this message goes forth, it will go forth by Seventh-day Adventists, the faithful ones, who are really praying and studying and according to Ezekiel 9 are crying and sighing for the abominations being done in the land and are not involved in gossiping or tearing down.
One of the top selling songs is Man in the Mirror. I went on the internet to read the lyrics. It says something like, “Who are you fooling? If you want change, you need to look in the mirror at yourself and change yourself and stop dealing with other people.” I said, Lord, are the rocks crying out? We have to start examining ourselves to make sure that we are on the path that God has placed us. There is no time to get caught up in surface issues; we need to take time to study and know the message; then preach it.
Stop wasting time and start studying. If you do not have a schedule for your time every day, make one. Your time belongs to God. No other gift has He given of which we have to give a more strict account. Study now and you will be prepared and not overwhelmed when the winds of strife are no longer held back and all breaks loose upon the world. Don’t be found with a form of godliness but denying the power thereof (II Timothy 3:5) and be exposed as a fraud.
Now is the time to develop an ear to hear the Holy Spirit saying, this is the way, walk ye in it [Isaiah 30:21] and stop running to man. Every day start your day with worship.
Once, in India, we were riding in a car that stopped because of a cow in the middle of the road. The driver stopped for that cow and did not even try to move it because it was believed that cows were sacred and we were told that if we attempted to move the cow we would be killed because that cow was sacred. Some Christians do not have as much reverence for the true God as those people had for that cow. There is no excuse not to have a personal relationship with God and to be able to go to Him and know that He is answering your prayers. All have squandered time, but we can redeem the time by not wasting any more, by giving God as much time as you possibly can and He will prepare you for the crisis or He will trust you to die. You have to be trusted to die, because you have to die in Christ.
We are in a war. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will find yourself weeping because there are so many people trapped in sin. You will find yourself losing your comfort to cause others to feel comfortable so they can know your God. You will constantly pray and ask God how you can reach somebody. It is Christ allowing you to feel His burden through you. Have the patience of the saints who keep the commandments and have the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12) and you will be sealed by settling into the truth, both spiritually and intellectually, because you have surrendered to God.
Pastor Stephen Lewis is an international speaker and director of The Present Truth Ministry. This article is from a sermon he preached at the Steps to Life Camp Meeting 2009. He can be contacted at: www.thepresenttruth.org.