We stand at the end of the year of the Lord, 1999. We stand at the end of the twentieth century.
In this week we will enter into a new millennium. What are the thoughts that fill your mind? Are you filled with anxiety? Are you nervous, wondering, worried about what will happen? Or do you possess the comfort that is to be found in Jesus Christ – the confidence that your life is in the hands of your faithful heavenly Father – that you belong, in life and in death, to the faithful Savior? This is the only comfort. This is the exclusive comfort that belongs to the child of God. We want to talk about that comfort on this last Sunday of the twentieth century.
As we peer into the future, what comfort is there in our belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ? As we think of all the things that are yet to be, and of all the uncertain things that, perhaps, await us just around the corner, in but a few days, should we tremble and fear? Should we be anxious? Listen to the words of our Savior today that our hearts may be stilled in the tempest, that we may give glory to God as those who have a sure confidence and a certain hope in Jesus Christ.
Our comfort in these last days is first of all that God will make provision for us. Think about that. God has promised always to provide for us, no matter what. We can expect that from God, that He will always make provision for His church in every time and in perilous times. We read in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (I shall not lack). He leadeth me, He restoreth me.” And the Scripture is simply full of it. Psalm 132:15, “I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.” Is it not a wonderful and marvelous thing to know by faith that the Lord appoints and preordains and provides for us exactly what we shall need in every day, in every trial, and in every sorrow in the days that are ahead for us?
But specifically, what is that provision? What has God provided for us so that no matter what demand and events come to us around the corner in the new millennium, no matter what comes to us, we shall be firm and sure in Christ. What is it that God has given to us so that, no matter how feeble we may be, God will be, nevertheless, our provision and portion?
First of all, God has provided for us His grace. You might recall that in the last weeks we were looking at the Lord’s words in Mark 13 in which He spoke of the end times and of His second coming. In that chapter, in verse 11, He spoke these words: “But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.” The Lord, there, is speaking of the fact that the period of the last days will be marked with great opposition to the gospel. I say, again, that the Bible never says that the gospel will be in the majority of mankind. Such a view is contrary to Scripture. When men spin out their dreams of latter-day glories they fly in the face of the Lord’s words and all of Scripture. The Lord says that the last days will be a period of ever increasing opposition to the gospel, ever increasing opposition to the preaching of the gospel and to the church which seeks to advance the gospel.
In verse 12 the Lord says that there will be division and that because of His Word that division will cut right across the intimacy of the ties of a family – brother and brother, father and son, parent and child shall cause one another to be put to death.
What are we to do? Are we to be overcome with fear when we see how dark and impenetrable are men’s hearts unless God opens them? Are we anxiously wondering how we shall be able to maintain a faithful testimony of the gospel in the days that are ahead? The Lord says, “No. Do not try to anticipate all conceivable ways that opposition will come to you. But,” the Lord says, “whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye.”
That does not mean that the Lord cancels out our need for being prepared and for studying His Word and reflecting upon His truth. But, He says, “let your courage be this: that God will give you what you need at that moment; that you will never lack the grace necessary in order that you might live to the glory of God and make a humble confession of His truth. It shall be given to you.” When we read “it shall be given to you,” we are in the realm of grace, we are in the way of salvation. For salvation is by grace. It will be given to you. That is God’s gracious activity in bestowing a blessing. All that is in the heart of God comes in the way of being given. It is not something that we earn. God will give exactly what we need, at that moment, so that we might stand, and so that we might do so out of the riches of His grace. As we think of what may come upon us in the days that are ahead as children of God; and as we see our weaknesses and our cowardice and how much we love our own skin, let us not rely upon our own cleverness, our own wit, our quick tongue. Cursed be he that trusteth in man. But let us rely upon God’s grace. It shall be given you.
But the provision is not only God’s grace. God will also give us His Spirit. The Lord said there, in verse 11, “For it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.” What is He saying? Jesus says to us that God’s grace will flow into our heart and mind by the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit. God has promised that in the midst of all our trials, and in all the last days of woe upon the earth, He will give us His grace and His Holy Spirit. And the Lord is going to emphasize this to His disciples (read John 13-16, which words were spoken just nights before His death on the cross). Repeatedly He says, “I will give you the Comforter, the Spirit of truth; and He shall lead you into all the truth.” That means that as we face every possible problem we look to this provision of God: I will give you My Spirit. Christ says, “You are going to live in the last days as My children, in a time of religious error and seduction. False and seducing doctrines will blow as the wind. There will be many false teachers. And,” He says in this chapter, “if it were possible, they would seduce the very elect.” There will be many who will be led astray. There will be influential religious leaders leading hosts of people away into false gospels. How are we going to stand and be faithful to the truth of the Word of God? How will we sort out truth from error? The Lord says, “I will provide the Holy Spirit.” He is the One who will give you courage and comfort. You know, by nature, we are cowards. We vacillate. We are creatures who do not have courage to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ. If you, in your pride, think that you can, then you must remember Peter. No one of us has spiritual courage of himself.
Then the Lord tells us in this chapter that, for His sake, we shall even be put to death. But God says, “Here is My provision: I will not only give you My grace, but I will give you My Spirit. And by My Spirit you shall stand.”
By His Spirit, He took Peter who, in his own strength, was afraid of a young girl who said to him one night, “Surely you are one of His disciples.” He cursed and swore and said, “I know not that man!” That is Peter in his strength. But that same Peter, given the grace and Spirit of God, stands on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2, before the same crowd (perhaps some in the crowd who had stood at the fire with him the night that he cursed and swore that he knew not Jesus) and says, “You have taken Him with wicked hands and crucified Him. But God hath raised Him up and set Him at His right hand. Now, repent and believe.” That same Peter later on, in Acts 12, when he is in prison (and the next day is to be executed) and is chained and kept by soldiers in a dungeon, this same Peter slept. He slept like a baby, so that the angel had to come and smite him, shake him, to wake him up. Why was he so sound asleep? Why did he have peace when the next day he would die? Was there in Peter a personality change, a psychosomatically induced sleep, perhaps? Perhaps his inner psyche was attempting to escape reality? No, the Spirit gave rest to Peter’s soul. He giveth His beloved sleep. I will lay me down in peace and sleep, for the Lord maketh me to dwell in safety.
That same Spirit of God is promised to us. That is God’s provision as we go forward into this next millennium. What are the provisions of God which will be utterly sufficient, completely adequate? The provisions are God’s grace and the Holy Spirit. These shall give you strength and courage. These shall give you strength and courage to lay your job on the line, if need be, to say, “If I must be party to the deception that is being practiced in this office, then you have my resignation.” God’s grace and Spirit will give you the courage to wait by the side of your husband who is in a coma while there are five children at home. God’s grace and Spirit will give you a strength which will baffle the world.
But there is still another provision. That provision is prayer. Jesus said in Mark 13:18, “And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.” Then He said, “Watch and pray.” You see, prayer is more than just a duty. Prayer is God’s way of supplying us with strength and courage. I love what we read in Jeremiah 33:3. There God says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Jeremiah was, at that time, in a pit. It cannot get much worse than that. He is down in a pit. And God says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things.” So Christ says to us as we go forth into the next millennium, “Pray. I will give you My grace and My Spirit. And now, here is your strength: pray, pray always.” Young mother, parent, you who care for children in these dark days – you say, “Having my own soul to care for is enough, with all the seductions and all the evil influences of the world around me. But now, what about my children?” Christ says, “Pray! Don’t be scared into a spiritual corner of defeatism. Don’t say, ‘How in the world am I ever going to prepare my children for what they’re going to face in this year? I can hardly cope with each day myself – washing and meals and kids crying and fighting and all the rest. Now when you call me to my spiritual responsibility to prepare soldiers of the Lord who are to stand in the last day, how in the world am I ever going to do that?'” The Lord says: “Pray. You will be strengthened through prayer. I will hear you. I will give you what you need.”
Have you ever said, “Lord, I need something to help me. I didn’t know it would be like this. This is far harder than I could ever imagine. Lord, I am at my wits’ end. I don’t know what to do.” The Lord says, “Pray, pray. Do not leave the throne of grace. You will find a perfect provision prepared for you right there.”
You say, “Pastor, that’s all there is to it? We come to the Lord’s word in this chapter and He speaks to us as His people and He says to us (the church and everyone who will live godly) that in these coming days that are before us as we enter into a new millennium there shall be such persecution upon those who are godly, a persecution which was not since the beginning of the creation neither shall ever be; He says to us in this chapter that unless the days are shortened in the counsel of God for the elects’ sake, there would be none who are saved, and you say, ‘We’re going to stand in the last days.’ How are we going to stand? Isn’t there some special training class? Isn’t there some secret weapon to be unveiled now in the church at this crucial moment? Didn’t God tell you about that? Isn’t there some special plan for special days ahead of us?” And God says, “No. I have provided right now, as I did in the past, exactly what you are going to need. I have provided grace, My Spirit in you, in prayer.” We need to stand. And strength to stand tomorrow for whatever may come to us in the will of God as we await the return of Christ will be supplied to us in the same way that it was supplied to us in the past and as it has always been supplied. No new contingencies. God sits upon His throne. He does not make new plans to avert potential disasters. He says, “My grace, My Spirit. And frequent the throne of grace each day.”
Therefore, if I am to be in a state of awareness for the return of Christ, what am I to do? If I am to be kept in the way of holiness and not swept into the cesspool of sin, what am I to do? If I am to be kept in the way of stewardship and not carried away by the things of this present world, what am I to do? If I am to be kept in the way that my heart is permeated with the words of Christ and not with the babble of this world, what am I to do? God says, “Go to the throne of grace, where the Holy Spirit will provide you with the strength of God and His grace, even in the day when the love of many shall wax cold, when there shall be a contagion of spiritual coldness and chill.” How shall we keep our hearts burning as a coal of love before God? Pray.
God’s provision for the future, whatever may come according to His will in the future, both for the church collectively and for you personally as a child of God, God’s provision is grace, His Spirit, and prayer.
Then God promises – and that is part of the provision too – God promises us that His cause shall prevail. God says that His elect shall be preserved and gathered. He says that the elect shall be gathered by the angels from the four winds of the earth. People of God, the doctrine of election is not some medieval horror invented by dusty, musty, narrow-minded and narrow-hearted theologians. Oh, no. Jesus talked about it right in the middle of a sermon on the end of the world when He was talking about persecution, false christs, deception, and opposition. He says, “My confidence that My people shall be saved, no matter what the devil or the world throws at them, My confidence that they shall be preserved and that the fruit of all of My suffering shall not go for nothing, and that My Father shall have His church in glory, My confidence is in My Father’s eternal decree of election which nothing can frustrate.”
What comfort and what courage that is. All that surrounds us in the moment of supreme trial and personal sorrow and heart-crushing burdens; all that will surround us in these last days which come upon the earth to try the earth: the iniquity, the tightening of the noose around the Christian truth, the efforts to corrupt and destroy the church – what is necessary to keep the church from all of that is the eternal commitment of the Father in His decree of gracious election. He says, “You are My chosen. I have given My Son as a ransom for you in due season. Nothing shall keep you from being brought safe at last into the eternal kingdom of God. Hold fast to it. Don’t let it slip.” That is our comfort and our courage.
And the promise is not only that God will preserve, but also that Jesus is coming. The Lord made that very clear. I will not go through all of the Scriptures again. The Lord made very clear that there is no rapture, there is no seven years’ tribulation, there is no thousand-year millennium, there is no other chance to be saved after Jesus comes. The Lord made it very clear. He comes yet once more, says the Scripture. He comes to gather the elect and to consign the unbelieving to eternal hell. When Jesus comes, all whose eyes see no beauty in Him, whose hearts are attached to the world, will be condemned to the place of weeping and fire. Those whose hearts have thrown off the commands of God, they shall perish. But those who, by the grace of God, see beauty in Him; those who, by the grace of God, have joy in Him; they shall be preserved and kept to the very end.
Are you ready? Comfort your hearts with these words: God will provide us with all that we need: grace, His Spirit, and prayer. God’s promise shall forever stand. He shall preserve and keep. And He shall send His Son. Therefore, be ready. Live in such a way that you are ready to meet your Savior when He comes for you to take you to be with Him in eternal glory. When He comes to gather you that day at His feet, you shall come to Him not in fear but in holy joy and triumph. And then we shall be satisfied.
As we enter the year 2000, as we embark upon the twenty-first century, this is our prayer which is heard and will be answered: Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word through Jesus Christ. Amen.