“But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”
[Matthew 24:20-21, KJV]
What is the great tribulation?
It is a time of great pressure, trouble, distress and persecution for Christians, to such a level that has never happened before in history since the world began. It has already begun, but there is a particular three and half year period where it will be most intense. It is this period that is mentioned in the bible. Why will this three and half year period be most intense? It is because at that time, the whole world would have come together under one antichrist world government, which will lead the world to oppose Christ and His people to the highest level possible. It will indeed be a difficult time for many Christians, but for some, it is written:
“… but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.”
[Daniel 11:32, KJV]
We will all need to be among such people who know their God, so that we can be strong and still be able to do God’s service even in those difficult time. That’s why we need to actively, consciously and prayerfully prepare now. And for those who don’t prepare, our Lord Jesus has said:
“10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” [Matthew 24:10-12, KJV]
May we not be among those whose love for Christ goes cold. In Matthew 24:20, this great tribulation period is symbolically referred to as winter, because it is a period that will pressure the faith and love of many Christians to freeze and become cold. But how do we prepare for physical winter? We put on layers of thick clothing, including a good winter jacket. Likewise, spiritually, to prepare for this great tribulation, we need to put on the necessary layers of spiritual clothing. What are they? We can find them in Ephesians 6:11-18 and Colossians 3:12-14:
Ephesians 6:11-18 reads: “11 PUT ON the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” [KJV]
Colossians 3:12-14 reads: “12 PUT ON therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things PUT ON charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” [KJV]
From this passage we see that to adequately cover ourselves so that our faith and love for Christ does not grow cold during the great tribulation, the great spiritual winter:
- we need to put on an attitude of always telling the truth no matter how difficult,
- we need to have a heart of righteousness [thinking only things that are right],
- we need to always be prepared to share the gospel wherever we go,
- we need to be strong in faith [not doubting God not matter the situation],
- we need to maintain a consciousness that we have been saved and also maintain a hope that we will be fully saved [from sin, from satan, from death, and all things that are not God’s will for us],
- we need to fill ourselves with God’s word [reading it, meditating on it and talking about it],
- we need to pray always in the Spirit [speaking in tongues as an act of faith that the Holy Spirit should pray for the things we do not know of],
- we need to be patiently watchful for one another so that no one falls or grows cold [else it will have a negative effect on our faith],
- we need to be merciful to people,
- we need to be kind to people,
- we need to have a humble mind [not thinking of ourselves higher than others],
- we need to be meek [gentle in the way we relate with people, not harsh],
- we need to be willing to suffer long,
- we need to bear with one another and forgive one another, and above all,
- we need to have love [charity]. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us that love is willing to suffer long and still be kind, love does not envy, love does not parade itself, love is not puffed up [is not proud], love does not behave rudely, love does not seek its own, love is not easily provoked, love does not think evil of people, love does not rejoice in sin [in things that are wrong], love only rejoices in the truth, love is willing to bear all things, believe all things [about God and His Word], hope all things [in God’s Word] and endure all things [while doing God’s will]. And by doing so, 1 Corinthians 13:8 says love never fails. As such, if we are serious about enduring through the great tribulation and remaining strong for Christ then we need God now to help us put on love properly.
These are things we need to put on now [and get used to having them on] so that they can serve as layers of covering to protect our faith and love for Christ during the spiritual winter [the great tribulation].
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL.
There’s one more things our Lord Jesus instructed us to do. In Matthew 24:15-16 He asked us to flee from the defiled temple to the mountains: “15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:” [KJV]. And then in verses 20 and 21 He said that we should pray that our flight [our fleeing] is not during the great tribulation: “20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Meaning, we are supposed to come out of the defiled temple and flee to the mountains before the great tribulation if we want our faith and love for Him to survive.
So what is the defiled temple we are to come out from?
And what is the mountain we are to flee to?
The temple is the house of God. In the Old Testament, it was a physical building, but in the New Testament, it is a spiritual building, it is the Church, the assembly of God’s people together. 1 Timothy 3:15 makes this clear saying: “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” [KJV]. As such, the defiled temple in the New Testament, refers to churches that have turned away from God and are doing things that does not please God. Or put differently, the defiled temple represents the backslidden church system. This is what God wants His people to come out from in these days if they want to survive the great tribulation. We will discuss more on this later. But what is the mountain God wants us to go to? It is the mount of Olives [but symbolically speaking]. In Matthew 24:1-3 when our Lord Jesus began saying the things in Matthew 24, we are told that He departed from the temple and went to the Mount of Olives. It is from there He did all His speaking. This was a prophetic act to say that His presence is no longer in the defiled temple [in the backslidden church system]. And so, His people should come out from there to where He is. But where is He? In Matthew 18:20 He said: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” [KJV]. So, the Lord is wherever His people are gathered. We can therefore understand that what the Lord is saying is that, after coming out of the backslidden church system, He wants us to go to simple holy gatherings of His people. That is where He is in these days that the mainstream organized church system has been defiled. He is in simple holy fellowships of His people who gather wherever convenient, without the add-ons of an institutionalized structure or registration as a religious organization. It is such simple fellowships that are symbolized as the Mount of Olives, where He is. So when He says “… flee to the mountains” He is saying Christians in these last days should flee to simple fellowship assemblies where the focus is truly on the Word of God, prayer, oneness and being led by the Spirit of God.
Why is it so important to come out of the defiled temple now?
Why must we urgently flee to the mountains?
It is because like our Lord Jesus said in Matthew 24:15, the abomination in the defiled temple will cause desolation. Desolation means destruction. Meaning, the abomination will cause destruction to come to the church system. Luke 21:20-21 adds more detail. It says: “20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.”.
Here, we see that part of the reason why it is urgent for Christians to run out of the backslidden church system is because Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies. Jerusalem? What does Jerusalem have to do with the Church? Jerusalem is another name for the Church. This is explained very well in Galatians 4:22-26. It reads:
“22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” [KJV]
This passage explains the two covenants: the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. It shows that the Old Covenant is what produced the physical Jerusalem [the Jews], while the New Covenant is what produced the spiritual Jerusalem. This spiritual Jerusalem is called “Jerusalem which is above” because it is made up of Christians who are spiritually sited together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus [as we are told Ephesians 2:6].
Revelation 21:2, 9 and 10 also confirms this – that the Church is called Jerusalem. It reads:
“2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… 9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. 10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,” [KJV]
This passage shows us that the Lamb’s wife [which is the Church – the bride of Christ] is spiritually called New Jerusalem – the Jerusalem of the New Covenant. This is the Jerusalem we care about. So when we are told that Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies, then it means that the church system will be surrounded and pressured by governmental forces. So we definitely need to flee before this happens.
Revelation 11:1-2 further reiterates this – that the church will be surrounded and pressured by ungodly governmental forces. It says: “1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. 2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” [KJV]
In this passage, the holy city is Jerusalem. But as we have learned, this Jerusalem is not the physical Jerusalem, but the spiritual Jerusalem [the New Jerusalem which is the Church]. So, this passage is telling us that the Gentiles [the ungodly governmental forces] will tread down the Church for forty two months. These forty two months are the final three and half years when the great tribulation is most intense [as we mentioned in the beginning of this message]. It is this situation of gentiles tramping on the church that our Lord Jesus described as Jerusalem surrounded by armies in Luke 21:20. And why will God allow this? It is because, just as the Jewish religious system had backslidden to the point of not recognizing the Son of God, so also the church system has backslidden to the point of not knowing that Christ has departed out of her and has gone to “the mount of Olives” [simple and holy fellowship gatherings of His people where He is present, through His Spirit, to teach and guide them into all truth].
The temple [the house of God] in the above passage [Revelation 11:1] also refers to the Church. So when the passage says “… Rise and measure the temple of God …” it means: Rise and measure [evaluate] the church. Obviously, at this point, the measurement reveals that the church [the temple] is defiled, which is why our Lord Jesus says we should flee to the mountains where He is [we should flee to simple holy gatherings of believers where He is present to teach and guide them through His Spirit].
Not yielding to this call to flee to the mountains will mean that you will still be in there when the gentiles [the antichrist world governing powers] surround and take over the institutionalized church system. Obviously at that time you will want to come out but it will be much difficult then. So, in Matthew 24:20-21 our Lord Jesus warns to pray that we do not begin to flee during the great tribulation. If you are caught in the temple [in the church system] when the gentile antichrist governing forces move to take over the church, the following are the things our Lord Jesus said will happen:
“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” [KJV]
What does it mean to fall by the edge of the sword? In Ephesians 6:17 we are told that the sword of the spirit is the Word of God. This is the weapon of a believer. But for an unbeliever [for an ungodly person, a gentile] their sword is definitely not the word of God; rather, it is the word of satan. So how will people fall by the word of satan? It simply means that the faith of many Christians will be killed through the deceitful words and ideologies of ungodly antiChrist forces. Our Lord Jesus hinted of how great this assault [through deceitful words] will be when He said: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” [Matthew 24:24, KJV]
What does it mean to be led away captive into all nations? It means to be taken away from Jerusalem and led somewhere else. Since Jerusalem represents the Church, the other nations represent other religions and ideologies foreign to God’s truth. The physical version has already happened to the Jews, such that they are scattered across almost all nations of the world. But the spiritual version of Christians being led away from the core truths of God’s Church into other religions and ideologies is about to happen. These other religions and ideologies will be contained within the antiChrist one world religion. It is this one world religion and its governmental influence that will surround the institutionalized church system to make it conform by force. And the people they find still in the church system [still in the defiled temple] they will lead them away captive to accept the ideologies of other religions as equally valid, and that Christ Jesus is not the only way to God.
These are what will happen to those who remain in the registered/institutionalized church system by the time the great tribulation starts, and it will be more difficult for them to come out then. Our Lord Jesus explains how difficult it will be to come out then by likening the great tribulation to the winter and the Sabbath day. Thinking physically, imagine how difficult it will be to climb a mountain in the winter, especially when you don’t even have the necessary clothing. It will be terrible. The person may never make it. That’s how terrible it will be for a person trying to depart from the organizational church system after it has been taken over by the gentile world government powers. The person may never make it. Our Lord also described it as the Sabbath day. On the Sabbath day nobody does any work. If you are caught doing any work you’ll charged as guilty of the law. Likewise, during the great tribulation, no one is allowed to do any work for God. It will be deemed unacceptable and seen as a resistance to the new order. If a person then wants to oppose the gentile forces by going away from the captured church system, such a person will be seen as an enemy to the new order and will be dealt with. As such, it will truly be a difficult thing to come out of the defiled temple [the organizational church system] during the great tribulation, after the antiChrist world powers have taken over all church organizations.
Now is the time to flee to where our Lord Jesus is – simple and holy fellowship gatherings of His people, wherever convenient, and where the focus is the Word of God, prayers, oneness in love and being led by the Spirit of God. He has said:
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” [Matthew 18:20, KJV]
May the Lord help us to heed this call. Amen.
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- LIGHT IN THE EVENING TIME