THE POWER OF HOPE
John J. Blanchard
May 24, 2014
This morning the title of the sermon is The Power of Hope. I want to open with the quotation from Abraham Lincoln that we had in most of the Digests inside the front cover. Abraham Lincoln once said, “The power of hope upon human exertion and happiness, is wonderful.” It truly is!
Hope actually has power in it. It is a wonderful power. With hope you get all kinds of side benefits because hope engenders a lot of things. I am going to go over some of them here, for example, resolve. It is hard to have resolve if you don’t have hope. It is hard to have perseverance without hope.
Hope also gives us the belief that the sacrifice and the suffering we are undergoing while we are waiting for whatever it is we are hoping for is worth it. It gives us this “worth it” feeling, like I am not wasting my time.
It also gives us a certain security. It is a security that we will be delivered from the trials, the tribulations, and the sufferings we are undergoing while we have hope. Lastly on my little list here, it promotes a sort of happiness and a certain joy that you know that your adversity is for just a time. The trials are just for a time, and then there is a wonderful expectation of things working out in the end. That gives us a certain satisfaction and happiness inside, even though we may be suffering at the moment.
I want to go through some of these and back them up with some Scriptures. Then I want to get to the gist of the subject that I want to talk about.
HOPE STRENGTHENS RESOLVE
First of all, let’s look at the fact that hope strengthens our endurance, our perseverance, and our resolve. I want to turn to Psalm chapter 31 as our first Scripture. We will start in Psalm 31, verse 23: “Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”
We get strength to go through things, and He preserves us, so we gain this comfort knowing that our hope isn’t wasted. We are going to get strength through this hope that we have for a beautiful outcome.
Turn back just a couple of pages to Psalm 27:14 which is now one of my favorite Scriptures. “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”
When I was having my issues with my heart, I counted on this. It gave me hope that everything was going to work out. I just needed to have the courage, and hope gives courage. He strengthens your heart, which is exactly what happened for me. It gives us this positive feeling that we can endure this, whatever the trial may be. We can endure this because we have the hope that everything is going to work out in the end.
HOPE OF DELIVERANCE
The second point I want to make is that it gives us a security that deliverance is coming. Our suffering is just for a time. Let’s turn to Psalm chapter 71. The Psalms actually are replete with all kinds of encouraging and hopeful Scriptures. We will look at a number of them that we will be reading from today.
Read Psalm 71:1-8.
This Psalm is talking about God and Jesus Christ delivering us from enemies, from trials, from tribulation, and from suffering. We know that we all do go through difficult times, but they are limited in duration. Things will work out for those who hope and trust in God. It will all work out.
Back all the way to Psalm chapter 33. We will read Psalm 33, verse 18: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”
Our hope and the amount of hope we have is tied to a reward for that hope because that is showing we trust God. We believe Him. It says here that He will strengthen us, extend our life, protect us, and guide us through famines and other hardships. Once again we see there are trials in life. There is no doubt. But they are short in duration, and God keeps His eye upon those who hope in Him through their trials. In other words you can actually feel that God is watching over you. I have felt that many times in my life. I felt God was watching over me in a difficult time, and His hand was there to guide and protect.
We also realize our biggest hope is that we will be delivered from sin. We know about Romans 6:23. You don’t have to turn there because we know it so well. It says the wages of sin is death. We want to get delivered from the wages of sin. Turn to Psalm chapter 39.
Read Psalm 39:7-13.
This “gaze” here is not watching over you. This is a gaze where God is looking upon us when we need correction. When God notices that we have a fault, He allows us to go through trials, but He will not allow us to go through more than we can bear. He always wants it to work out that our transgressions are removed.
In the last half of that verse I quoted a minute ago—Romans 6:23—says that, yes, the wages of sin is death, but grace is God’s free gift for everlasting life. God knows that sometimes we need trials to turn to Him. But we should always maintain hope that they are there for our benefit, that God is watching over us, and that it will all work out in the end if we have hope and trust and believe in His words. That leads me right into the next one.
HOPE FOR ETERNAL LIFE
We have hope for a resurrection and eternal life. That’s the consequence of having our sins removed and the wages of sin removed from us. We want to have eternal life. Go to the Resurrection Chapter which is I Corinthians 15. We are into the New Testament now. I Corinthians 15, verse 20: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”
All who have gone before us have died, but there is a promise of a resurrection. Like Christ being the firstfruit, it is a resurrection to eternal life. We could turn to many Scriptures to back that up. But let’s go to John chapter 4 where we are just breaking into a story relayed about Jesus Christ meeting the Samaritan woman at the well.
In John chapter 4, we are going to break into the story in verse 13: “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, [He is speaking of the well.] but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life’”
The promise is everlasting life. It’s what follows the resurrection, and the resurrection follows, of course, with the removal of our sins—our transgressions. That was promised way back in the Old Testament in many places.
Let’s turn to Psalms again. In Psalm chapter 16 it is put in different words here, but the sentiments are the same. Psalm chapter 16, verse 9: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.” In other words, we have died in hope, at this point. “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Of course, Jesus Christ’s body did not see corruption. He did die, and He was resurrected three days later. Because of that, as we saw in I Corinthians 15, when we die with that hope alive in us, we will also be resurrected to eternal life. That makes all what we are going through worthwhile. All the sufferings, all the trials, and all the correction are made worthwhile. That is my next point.
HOPE THAT SUFFERING IS WORTHWHILE
Hope is necessary to get through the sacrifices and sufferings of life because you have to feel it’s worth it. In order to have that feeling of worth, you have to have hope. Without hope, one gives up.
Let’s turn to Matthew chapter 19. We have to have hope that all things are going to work out. Matthew chapter 19, verse 29: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My names sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” This Scripture is quoted in other places as saying, in this life and the next.
Many of us have had to give up family, good times, get-togethers, and suffered persecution at the hands of employers or people who we thought were our friends. God says, don’t worry. This is all worth it! You must have hope. He says, I will bless you with family in this life. Right now I look around the room, and I can picture those of you who have tied in by phone and computer. You are my family. We are all more than just friends. We are friends, but we are family. God has kept His promise. That does not mean there wasn’t sorrow when we had to give up other things in life. We have replaced it with something else. God says, I will replace it with something else. Ultimately, our hope is eternal life. Therefore, it is worth it. All this suffering and sacrifice that we do is worth it.
In Romans, Paul says something similar. He makes it entirely broad brushed here in Romans. Go to Romans chapter 8. We will begin reading in Romans 8, where Paul says this in verse 18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope…”
That hope that we have is actually a hope for the whole world that they do not realize is there. They are groaning through their sufferings waiting for the sons of God to be revealed. We are suffering in this life, but in comparison to what we can give others and what God is going to give us, Paul says it is like nothing! It is not even worth comparing!
We know the sufferings of Paul. He wrote about the times he was beaten, the times he was whipped, the times he was without food, the times he was suffering and persecuted, and I am sure his writings weren’t extensive. Over and over again this happened in his life. That man suffered, and he said it is nothing. I don’t even count it! If we have enough hope, we need to get to that point. It would be wonderful for us to get to the point where we realize, we are all suffering. We are all weak. We are all tired. We are all sick. That’s part of life. Living through it in hope and using the difficulties of life as a living sacrifice, means we will be blessed in the end with eternal life. We will be able to share these wonderful gifts with the entire world who is also suffering.
It is wonderful, in a sense, to suffer for something you know is worthwhile. There are a lot of people suffering around the world for trivial things or for things that are total error. We see all kinds of wars and tumults around the world over stupid things that we know are wrong, yet people are suffering and dying for that. We have this hope that at least what we are suffering for and sacrificing for is going to be blessed by God. We can have that hope and that assurance.
In II Timothy 3 we usually read about the inspiration of God’s Bible—His word. If we would read all the way through to verses 16 and 17, we would see that the word of God is God-breathed and inspired. Paul is speaking to Timothy, and part of the inspired word here in II Timothy 3, verse 10 says: “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
It is a given. We are going to suffer persecution.
Continuing on in II Timothy 3, verse 13: “But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Then it goes on to say, all Scripture is God-breathed.
We get hope from the understanding of God’s word. We have seen Him fulfill many promises in the Bible. We have seen Christ lead a perfect life and then die for our sins, so we have a hope that there is a future life for us. We have hope that this is all worth it. All of us have suffered, are suffering, and will suffer, but we need to do it with this security in mind. It is peace knowing that it is worth it.
God is using our sufferings to correct us, to mold us, to shape us, and to build a beautiful reward. But also basically He leads us to the perfection with a reward that can help everyone else. Our sufferings are not worthy of eternal life, because that is a free gift. But it is a reward that can help everyone else. Somebody has to go through the paces like we are, so that the entire world can have the resurrection like what was spoken of in I Corinthians 15.
FALSE HOPE LEADS TO MISERY
Paul also understood that there is an enemy of hope. The enemy of hope, and what will destroy hope, is false hope. There is nothing worse than false hope. Paul understood that. After having suffered all those things that he did, he said, I am willing and ready to be poured out. I have led this life. I have suffered. I have sacrificed for God and for the people of God, and I am ready. He knew it wasn’t a waste. But he realized the danger of thinking it would be a waste and that we had wasted our time.
Go to I Corinthians 15 again. We are going back to the Resurrection Chapter. Just preceding what we read about the hope of the resurrection, Paul writes the following. Read I Corinthians 15:12-19. In the King James Version, it says, “most miserable.” You can see what Paul is saying.
If we can’t believe in the resurrection, we can’t believe in anything. If we have gone through our life preaching these things and preaching certain doctrines that are proven to be false, it damages our hope! It can damage us to the point of totally discouraging God’s people. It is a condition of our time in the church! Go to Revelation chapter 3, and you will see what I mean.
The same word “miserable” in the Greek is used here in Revelation chapter 3. Of course, we are talking about the Laodicean era. I just want to read Revelation 3, verse 17. We don’t have to read the entire section on Laodicea. Here Christ says to John in verse 17: “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…”
John wrote those words for our time. Christ knew in our time one of the symptoms (one of the characteristics) would be that we would be miserable. Then He goes on to say in Revelation 3, verse 18: “…I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire…” Make your garments white, repent of your sins, and acknowledge your sins. When I travel around, this is certainly something I see a lot of in the Church. I see miserableness. In the Greek it is eleeinos (#1652, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), and it means to be most pitiable. That’s what Paul was saying.
If this is not true and what we are preaching turns out to be wrong, we are indeed super miserable! It is not just a question of believing the resurrection. It is many doctrines. I want to zero in on one in particular, but we could talk about health and healing. We could talk about all varieties of doctrines that lead us to be discouraged if they turned out to be wrong. That’s what I am concerned about, because sometimes we hang on to something that turns out to be in error. We hang on to it long enough, and then we realize it was wrong, so we throw the baby out with the bath water. We say, we were wrong on that. We must be wrong on everything! I am so disgusted. Then we give up! That’s the danger of false hope.
I think false hope today is literally wringing out the life of the Church. It’s wringing the life blood out of the Church. Let’s go to Proverbs chapter 13, skipping back to the Old Testament again. In Proverbs chapter 13, I want to read just verse 12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”
We have to believe the tree of life is going to grow and take over this earth, and that all who believe in Jesus Christ—who is the tree of life—will become trees as well that bear fruit for the benefit of other people. I believe in our case, the hope that we were waiting for was deferred. I believe the Church could have been ready many years ago and could have been cleaned up as the bride of Christ. Christ would be here. A lot of needless suffering would not have taken place. If we go to Matthew 25 and read about that, we can see in the Parable of the Ten Virgins the bridegroom was delayed for a little while. That can make us feel that deferred hope has become “no hope,” and then our heart gets sick. Our emotions get sick. We get depressed. We get worried. We lose all the benefits of hope: the willingness to endure, the willingness to sacrifice, and the peace of knowing it will all work out in the end. We lose those benefits that I talked about if the hope goes away.
Of course you can bet, one of Satan’s key tricks in his bag of tricks is to get us to feel hopeless. I think today, as I mentioned earlier, false hope is ringing the life out of the Church. Like I said, I could talk about health and healing, I could talk about the blessings for tithing, or it could be many things. We don’t want this sermon to be too long.
There is this idea that we were supposed to be whisked off to a place of safety by now. We should not still be here. We can look at just this one aspect of a doctrine that turned out to be wrong. It needed to be tweaked, because, of course, there is protection from God. But it is not going to some place in the desert, and it is not getting raptured up into the sky. It is God taking care of us in place in a variety of ways, the main one being protection for our salvation. It is also to heal us, to guide us, to get us through trials, to help us where we are, and mainly keeping false doctrine out of our lives, so we don’t lose hope in the first place.
I am not mocking or knocking anybody, but we have heard these phrases over the years many times that we were in the gun lap. We just had a little while to go. This was being spoken of regularly twenty-five or thirty years ago. Perhaps we were, if the Church had gotten ready, so we have to be careful how we view this. To keep harping for too long about the gun lap when things didn’t seem to be working out can get discouraging. There are still many groups saying we are in the gun lap and the tribulation is going to start any time. Christ is going to come back, and we are going to a place of safety. It gets discouraging when you hear that.
If you were a runner running the quarter mile or the mile and you are told you are in the gun lap, you really gun it. You are pushing for the finish line. Then you come around and your coach says, I goofed. You have three laps to go! You lose hope, because you just burn yourself out! I think that happened to the brethren. That is what I am afraid of.
We have heard that the tribulation is just around the corner. Watch the news carefully! Watch the Middle East. Every time there is an earthquake or a war or something, it’s pumped up to be the beginning of this horrible cataclysm, which we understand now are false signs. It became a mantra that we were going to flee to a place of safety before long, and we would not have to endure much suffering. That has had a lot of negative consequences, brethren.
A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL
Let’s turn to Isaiah chapter 28. It was kind of a deal that we struck with the devil, and not knowing it. We need to wise up to this. Christ said we would suffer persecution. To be a Christian is not a bed of roses. The bed of roses comes after. It is full of reward and full of blessing and full of wonderful things.
I am starting in Isaiah 28, verse 14: “Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scornful men, who rule this people who are in Jerusalem [that’s basically the preachers of the Church], because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we are in agreement.’”
They don’t know they have.
Continuing in verse 15: “When the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.”
In other words, they thought as long as we are in this group or in that group or are following this person or that doctrine, we are safe. That’s a deal with the devil that was made unwittingly! By this point in time with thirty years gone by and after people talking about the tribulation that should have started, people should have wised up. They keep harping on this. I think a lot of them know better, but they don’t want to shake up the brethren and lose tithe money or whatever. Maybe they think they would lose their physical security. They continue to preach what has turned out to be and what should be very clear as wrong doctrines.
The brethren aren’t stupid. They are all getting older and realizing, this is not what you have been telling us before.
Let’s continue in verse 16 of Isaiah 28: “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.’”
That is, of course, Jesus Christ and the promises of Christ, one of which is that we will be persecuted. The apostles did not get whisked off to some place of safety. They were almost all martyred.
Verse 17: “Also I will make justice the measuring line, and righteousness the plummet; the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place.”
In other words, some will know the truth, and the truth is there if you want to understand what’s going on. We will read more about it in a moment. He says, the truth would wipe away the lies if you would listen, but you must have ears to hear.
Verse18: “Your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overflowing scourge passes through, then you will be trampled down by it. As often as it goes out it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass over, and by day and by night; it will be a terror just to understand the report.”
At some point people in the greater Church of God, and in Christian churches in general who think they are going to escape the tribulation or be gone for the suffering, have to wake up to the fact that they are living their lives and dying from various diseases. They are suffering, and they are broke. We are all going through these things waiting for a false hope. We are waiting for the resurrection! We are ready for Christ’s return! We were never waiting to be taken away to some mysterious place of safety while the rest of the world suffered.
It is going to be terror to wake up and realize the doctrines I believed in and the doctrines we have been preaching have been scaring people and hurting people. I have affected my own blessings by teaching this. It will be a terror to understand. We have to retrace our steps, trim our wicks, and get ready for what really is the fulfillment of prophecy. We need to do it quickly. That is the point I am making.
You can be off on a false premise doctrinally waiting for false hope and get worn out. Then someday, if you are lucky enough to be alive, you will say, wait a minute! We have to rethink this whole thing. The sooner we wake up to that point, the better because we have time to go buy and sell like Christ said in Revelation 3 or in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. We need to get some oil before Christ gets here! We won’t go and read the Parable of the Ten Virgins, but if you want, go back and read Matthew 25 sometime.
I do want to look at Matthew 24 for just a minute. Turn to Matthew 24. It is probably the most misquoted, misunderstood set of Scriptures that I can think of. Some say that it is showing that God wants to destroy the beautiful world that we see out there while protecting just a few people. I am in Matthew 24, and I am beginning in verse 1: “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’ Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.’”
Brethren, Christ warned us 2,000 years ago that all these various troubles that would come on the earth and on God’s people are not signs of Christ return. It says it clearly right here. He says don’t be deceived by those who come preaching these things in His name, but that is exactly the mistake that Satan has foisted upon the churches. They are preaching all this doom and gloom as if these are prophecies that God wants to fulfill, and they are robbing people of hope. They get around that and give people temporary, false hope by saying, but you’ll be okay because you’ll get raptured or you’ll go to the place of safety. You’ll be okay, it’s just for everybody else! People generation after generation have been taught this and have lived and died. They were miserable because of a false doctrine and a false premise.
We have to make sure that the true signs and wonders are understood. The signs and wonders are in our literature, and the truth of how we watch for the signs of Christ’s return. It has nothing to do with wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and pestilences. Not that we cannot be corrected as a nation or as a people in that way because of our own malfeasance, lies, deceit, or greed. There are laws that rule the world just like the laws of gravity and the laws of physics. If you break those laws, you are going to suffer the consequences.
Jesus Christ has promised to bring us a beautiful Millennium and spare the world utter destruction. But if we believe in a false premise and we realize at some point in our life that it turned out to be wrong, we can make some huge mistakes, and many brethren have. As I have traveled around and have talked to people in various places, I found that few prepared for old age. They were so sure we were in the gun lap. They didn’t save for retirement. They didn’t prepare for the day in age when they wouldn’t feel well. Many didn’t care enough about their health. They thought why bother with exercise and a good diet when in a few years from now Christ will be coming? It will be all over with, so why worry! Some people put off having children until very late in life or didn’t have children at all. Some young people didn’t even get an education. They felt there was no point to get educated! What do you need it for if the whole world is going to get destroyed?
WORN OUT SAINTS
In other words, many poor life decisions were made when hope turned out to be a false hope. What is the result of false hope? That is misery. We become miserable. We do get old, feeble, and sick and broke. Then we say, oh my! I wasted my life. I have seen people so discouraged in the Church or so anxious about how they are going to make ends meet and so worried about what’s going to happen next, that they have become bitter. That is the saddest thing of all.
There were prophecies that were meant for our ears to hear and eyes to see, but we have to understand them correctly like in Matthew 24 that I just went over. God knew this was going to happen, so that should give us hope. None of what has happened has discouraged God in the least! None of what has happened has caused Him to give up hope for mankind. He knows He is going to win in the end. We are the ones who get discouraged.
Turn back to Daniel chapter 7, and we are going to be reading verse 25. “He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law.” Of course, this is Satan.
He wants us to lose track of time and not know where we are in the seasons, so we think not only is our hope deferred, but maybe will never happen.
Continuing in Daniel 7, last part of verse 25: “Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.”
We are almost at the end of this time. The point here is that we are persecuted. It is bela in the Hebrew (#1080, Strong’s Concordance, 1995 edition) which means to wear out mentally. Satan is trying to wear us out mentally and to cause us to give up. He knows that if he can rob us of hope, he has us half way there. He knows we are going to start turning bitter and start getting discouraged. We are going to give up on the Sabbath. We are going to give up on the holy days. We can even turn against God if we are not careful.
I have quoted Vince Lombardi in the past. One of his most famous quotations is “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” As a matter of fact I think early on we had a sermon by that title. Fatigue makes cowards of us all, and Satan knows that. We get tired, so we give up. We lose hope. We must not do that, brethren. God’s plan and vision for us is not futile, and God does not want us to teach that it is futile. He does not want us to use His prophecies to make people feel it’s all worthless and hopeless. We could read a lot about that, but I just want to turn to Ezekiel.
Turn to Ezekiel chapter 13. Christ does not like us discouraging people. It’s one thing to correct them when they need correction. But if we are too harsh with pronouncements on doom and gloom and we preach a false doctrine or dogma built on a false premise, we can make people give up hope and feel things are futile. Then it makes that person become futile, as you will see. The prophet becomes futile.
Ezekiel chapter 13, beginning in verse 1: “And the word of the Lord come to me, saying, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, “Hear the word of the Lord!””’
In other words, people were saying, I am bringing you the word of the Lord in this prophecy, but it’s their own! It’s not the truth. There are a lot of people writing prophecy out there, and it turns out it is just their own idea, their own concoction, and their own scenario. It is not based on God’s word or God’s inspiration.
Continuing in verse 3 of Ezekiel 13: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord. They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, “Thus says the Lord!” But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, “The Lord says,” but I have not spoken.’”
I want to pause there for a moment, because there are a lot of people who have written prophecy and have delivered prophetic sermons in the last twenty years. They know it turned out to be wrong, and they have not corrected it or apologized. That’s what God is talking about here. They know they jumped the gun on the tribulation. They know they have misspoken on the Laodicean era. They have misspoken on a lot of things. They have discouraged a lot of God’s people.
Now let’s get back into the word here. I will repeat verse 7 of Ezekiel 13: “Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, ‘The Lord says,’ but I have not spoken. Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,’ says the Lord God. ‘My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord God. Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar…’”
In other words, that doctrine will be okay! We are going to a place of safety, just follow this leader or that group. It is the rest of the world that is going to suffer! God says, you put out a futile vision, and what you are telling the people will be futile!
Verse 11: “…say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, ‘Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?’ Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘I will cause a stormy wind to break forth in My fury; and there shall be a flooding rain in My anger, and great hailstones in fury to consume it. So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the Lord. Thus will I accomplish My wrath on the wall and on those who have plastered it with untempered mortar; and I will say to you, “The wall is no more, nor those who plastered it, that is, the prophets of Israel who prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,”’ says the Lord God.”
THE CHURCH IS THE TEMPLE
That happened to Jerusalem of old in 586 B.C. and to Jerusalem in 70 A.D., but it is happening to the spiritual Jerusalem that God has built in our time! If we were to read Hebrews 12, we know that it is a spiritual temple. We could go to Hebrews 3 or Philippians. The spiritual temple is mentioned in many places. It is mentioned in many places where God is building a spiritual building on a spiritual hill, and a spiritual temple is what has been broken down because of the false preaching and the hope that has been robbed of the people. The temple Christ is building is made of living sacrifices (I Peter 2). The living sacrifices are us! We are built together to make a temple, and those living sacrifices have to be willing to go through the sorrows and the tribulations of this life in the hope that it will all work out in order to stick with it. But if we remove ourselves from the building because of discouragement and a lack of hope, the building begins to fall and crumble. That’s what has happened to God’s Church.
Preaching a false doctrine and giving people false hope is the worst thing. It is the enemy of true hope. God’s plan is indeed awesome and perfect. It is going to work out! That is why Paul said, it’s not even worth it to even think of the sufferings of this age. It’s not worthy to compare it to the reward to come! You must have that in your mind all the time.
If you go back, please, to Daniel chapter 7, we are going to read the next verse after verse 25 because that is the critical part to keep in mind. God knew we would get discouraged and get worn down. We are in Daniel 7, verse 26: “But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion [that’s Satan’s dominion], to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.”
THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS
Those who have not given up hope and quit are going to receive this beautiful kingdom which will be the hope for all of mankind. Notice these two verses quickly follow after God’s people getting worn out. Right now is the time we should have the greatest hope! It’s always darkest just before dawn. The gospel, brethren, is good news! We need to keep the good news in our mind, and we need to preach it to other people.
Turn back to Isaiah 52. This is a Scripture we are very familiar with. It’s also quoted in the New Testament. Isaiah 52, verse 7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord brings back Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. For the Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”
I believe the arm that he bears is His Church, and it works for Him. The Church who has hope brings the good news—the gospel—the beautiful things to people in the world who are suffering and groaning. We don’t tell them, like Pharaoh did, you think you got it bad now! We are going to whip you more, and we are going to make you make your bricks without straw! We are supposed to say, the suffering you are undergoing is for a short time. The Millennium is almost here! God’s plan is sure. Don’t listen to those who preach doom and gloom. Don’t listen to those that preach that wars and rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes are the sign of Christ’s coming and that it will be so terrible that practically everyone will die who is not in some place of safety or raptured. That is not the gospel. That is not the good news.
We need to trust and hope in the plan of God knowing that He will fulfill every promise that He has made.
Back to James chapter 5. We will have two more Scriptures here before we conclude. After correcting the ministry in verses 1-6, we are told here in James chapter 5, verse 7: “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”
We need to be willing to endure. There are leaders who are preaching discouraging messages. They keep moving the line back and tell us we’re in the gun lap. Hang in there! Send us your tithes and offerings. Keep obeying. Keep following this leader or that leader to the place of safety. Brethren, if you are feeling discouraged, I understand why. But don’t give up hope, because God knew this would happen. A sign of the end is that God’s people would get discouraged because they would have a hard time enduring mentally. That is a sign, but that happens just shortly before everything works out, so don’t throw your hands down in discouragement and give up now. Please do trim your wick! Please do buy oil. Fill your lamp with oil because Christ is closer than you think.
Hebrews chapter 11 is what I want to conclude with. We are just going to read the first three verses of Hebrews 11. Verse 1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
Yes, we can’t see the Millennium yet. Yes, we can’t physically see Jesus Christ. There is no resurrection taking place around us to give us hope at the moment. But faith is the evidence of things we cannot see, and that gives us hope. Hope will give us all these blessings I talked about at the beginning: endurance, the perseverance, the resolve, the internal peace, the joy that we can have knowing that our God does not make futile prophecies or futile promises. All will work out. We will have salvation. We will have reward. All through this, until that day comes, He is watching over us carefully. He is taking care of us. He will not let us suffer beyond what we are able. He will help us be living sacrifices that will eventually help the whole world have their groanings and travail lifted. They can then have the hope and the faith that we have and a beautiful life in the Millennium.