Welcome to our new series. Jesus Christ said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” (Matt 24:32-33) He said this in reference to the signs of the end times. This was (and is) a warning to His disciples who will see these things coming to pass. Jesus gave us an outline of events that would take place before His triumphant return to the earth as the KING of Kings and the LORD of Lords. Jesus went on to say, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (verse 42).
The previously quoted verse indicates that Jesus’ disciples would still be on the earth at His return. This is also made clear by Matt 24:29-31 where Jesus explains that He will send His angels to gather His elect. If there was to be a rapture, it would stand to reason that the elect would not need to be gathered after the Great Tribulation. There are dozens of other verses that prove the elect of God will be on earth until Jesus comes and there are ABSOLUTELY NO VERSES showing that Jesus returns before or in the middle of a seven-year tribulation.
The purpose for saying the above is not to generate fear but to admonish you not to have a lackadaisical attitude regarding the troubles of the Great Tribulation. In every account of a major trial recorded in your Bible, the people of God are brought through it under the protection of God Almighty. A few examples for your consideration:
- Noah lived through the great flood.
- Jeremiah survived the siege of Jerusalem.
- Ezekiel lived through the same siege, but survived as a slave.
- King David survived years of fleeing from the wrath of Saul.
- The children of Israel lived through all 10 plagues brought on Egypt.
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lived through the fire.
For final consideration read Rev. 12:17 and Rev. 13:7 which warns of satan and the beast’s war on the saints. The implication of these verses is the saints of God must be prepared for unparalleled persecution before Jesus Christ returns. Jesus said, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” (Luke 21:19) He said this explaining the troubles of the end time. The Greek word translated into patience means cheerful (or hopeful) endurance. The saints of God will have to endure all that is to come under the protection of God while watching for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Book of Acts
The most vivid descriptions of persecution, hope, and triumph can be found in the Book of Acts. I have personally read through it several times learning courage, wisdom, patience, hope, and more. As I see the Great Tribulation approaching quickly, I feel compelled to share what God has taught me through the record of the first generation of His church. Through studying the Book of Acts, we can learn a lot about enduring tribulation and how to prepare our hearts and minds for the troubles ahead. Remember, “he that endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matt 24:13; Mark 13:13). Keep this at the forefront of your mind. You MUST endure (that is stay faithful to God) until the end.
The Book of Acts was technically written to one man named Theophilus, but was preserved as a record for the disciples to come. Luke, the author of the gospel account called by his name, wrote the Book of Acts and his gospel account to the same man (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-5). From reading the New Testament, it is not clear what Luke’s title or position was within the church of God. Whether or not he had a title is insignificant. I point this out to show that despite a clear title and authority, Luke found it necessary to teach and present the truth to Theophilus and by extension to all of us. Obviously, this was all inspired by God, but Luke had to submit to the will of God for this to happen through him. Please understand that Luke was with Paul as persecution began to ramp up (Col. 4:14; II Tim. 4:11). This becomes obvious when reading through the book of Acts and identifying the change from they to we indicating when Luke joined Paul. The implication of these facts is that Luke wrote these things to Theophilus under heavy persecution. This is first lesson we should learn from the Book of Acts. Trials, tribulation, and persecution should not stifle our desire to share and preach the truth of God. The word of God must be preached!!!
The dragon will make war with those who keep God’s commandments and have the testimony of Jesus. This is not a testimony about Jesus, but the testimony of Jesus. Why is this important? The word “the” is a definite article (please take to time to search this out using http://www.blueletterbible.org). This means there is a specific testimony these saints have. Testimony is a record or report. This verse shows us that the church is to have the record or report of Jesus, that is the record or report that Jesus spoke. Though Jesus did speak about Himself, He spent far more time speaking about the coming kingdom of God. The logical conclusion is that the saints who are under attack by satan will maintain the message that Jesus Christ preached.
This is vitally important. The Book of Acts is a record of the church of God being under attack. While under attack by those who did not believe their message, the church continued to preached the good news of the coming kingdom of God and the need for repentance. Yes, they preached about Jesus. Why? Because it is impossible to talk about a kingdom and omit the King of the kingdom, especially when that King sacrificed Himself so man may enter the kingdom. Remember the Holy Scripture is abundantly clear that the good news (the gospel) is of the kingdom of God. Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom which is the kingdom of God is nigh (or at hand) and told His disciples to do the same (Matt. 4:17, 23; Matt. 10:7; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:43; Luke 8:1; Luke 9:2, 60 and many more). Read through the gospel accounts and recognize that Jesus Christ spent the majority of His time giving parables about the kingdom.
Luke preserved this message by physically recording the Acts of the Apostles. He wanted Theophilus to know what Jesus did, taught, and preached by recording his gospel account. He wanted Theophilus to know that the disciples of Jesus did, taught, and preached the same things as the Lord. Please read Acts 1:3 several times. It tells us that Jesus spent 40 days, “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” The good news of the kingdom was so important that Jesus Christ spent 40 extra days on earth to expound on the matter after His resurrection. This message must be maintained in the end time, even through the Great Tribulation!!!
Maintaining the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ
The job of the church is to maintain the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ message included a command. Jesus’ message included the command to repent. Please reread the verses listed two paragraphs ago to confirm this point. Repentance is not feeling of remorse or regret. Repentance by definition is a change in thinking. The Greek word translated into repent is metaneo which means to think differently. The implication is to repent is to change your mind. In terms of what Jesus taught, to repent is to change your mind about the way you have been living. If you begin to think differently about sinful ways of being, then you would naturally begin to change the way you live. Repentance is about changing the way you have been living! Jesus preached that we must change the way we are living because the kingdom of God is coming!!!
When Jesus sent the twelve disciples (who became the apostles) to preach the gospel (read Matt. 10:1-15; Mark 6:7-13; and Luke 9:1-6), they preach the same message. Mark 6:12 reads, “And they went out, and preached that men should repent.” During their training, the apostles preached that men should repent. They continued to preach the same message after Jesus ascended to heaven. Read Acts 2:37-38. After a sermon from Peter, they crowd asked what should we do. The first word Peter utters is repent. Repentance (changing your way of life) is the consistent theme throughout the Old and New Testament. All the prophets and apostles preached repentance and prophesied of the coming kingdom of God.
This is what we learn from the opening verses of the Book of Acts which is emphasized throughout the 28 chapters. The role of the church is to preach repentance and live as examples of people who have repented toward God.
This is maintaining the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not preach turn away from sinful living while living sinfully. If He did, then that would make Him a hypocrite. The apostles of the first generation of the church did not preach turn away from sinful living while actively living sinful lifestyles. If they did, then they would have been hypocrites. Logically, a hypocrite’s inconsistent behavior will never maintain any message or ideology. You can not maintain the gospel message by not living by it!!!
Indeed the kingdom of God is coming and a christian will live a life consistent with repentance!!!
Before His ascension, Jesus said, “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The truly converted will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses unto the world, in word and deed.
Allow me to reiterate: If you truly believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ, then you accept that the kingdom of God is coming and you must repent. If you truly believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ, then you would live a life consistent with repentance. If you truly believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ, then you would maintain and promote the same gospel message. If you truly believe that the end is near, then you would promote the gospel message more as the world gets darker.
The end of the fight is not the time to retreat, recoil, or hide. Likewise, the end of the race is not the time to slow down or take a break. Now is the time to pray more, fast more, teach more, preach more, bless more, forgive more, and give me.