For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
The difficult but important ministry of the prophets, the watchmen that God has today.
"Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. The lion has roared- who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken - who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:7-8).
These words show us two important things: that the Lord commits himself to do nothing without revealing it to his prophets, and that the prophets are not a special class of people. It is enough that the Lord speaks, and all will prophesy. Therefore, we can say that for each Christian there is a prophet.
It is worth noting that it was Amos who spoke these words. By his own words, was not a prophet, nor a prophet's son. Nevertheless, He went and prophesied (Amos 7:14-17).
The Mission of the Prophets
If we look at the Old Testament we will find that the main mission of the prophets was to make the people return to the ancient paths, to the good way (Jeremiah 6:16). They had strayed, so the prophets had to make them return to the correct road.
Do you believe that there are Christians that have lost the good way? If so, then we need the restoration of the prophetic ministry. It is not only apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers that are necessary today. We also need prophets.
For the Jews, the good way and the ancient path meant returning to the law. For us, the good way and the ancient path is Jesus Christ. There are Christians that have lost the way; they have lost Jesus Christ! What a paradox: amid Christianity there are Christians that have lost Christ. Amid the cults, the worship, the preaching, amid the massive meetings, there are Christians that have lost Christ! The Lord therefore restores the prophetic ministry, so that many can find the valuable things that they have lost, and discard the vain things that they have found. ¨They must discard that straw and that useless tinsel in order to find, or find Christ anew.
The Dangers That They Watch
The old prophets and the prophets of today face dangers even to their personal safety. Most of the prophets died tragically. However that is not the point. The biggest danger that comes against us is, as it was for them, the temptation to soften the message for convenience or fear. As those prophets "sweetened their speech" (1), many accommodated their message (Jeremiah 23:31).
Many prophets didn't want to be hateful hostil nor unfriendly so they preached peace to the people, even though their roads were crooked. They didn't look to God's interests, they looked to their own interests. This is a problem that affected many prophets in the past and those of today as well. The great majority of the "official" prophets prophesied lies, to win the king's favor.
How we need prophets today that don't look to please their audiences, that don't look to make gain from the word of God, but rather, those that are faithful to what the Holy Spirit is speaking! The official prophecy in Israel failed, and the few true prophets were ignored. Will we also fail?
All Prophets Are Watchmen
All prophets are watchmen. A watchman is a observer stationed on the walls of a city. He has a privileged position. He sees many kilometers into the distance, and also sees how daily life occurs inside the walls. He is placed there so that he can see when danger is coming and also warn those who are unaware.
It is urgent, in light of September 11, 2001, that the prophets of God make the trumpet heard more than ever before. The world was moved and shocked by that day. From then on, the world felt that it lost the fragile security that it once had. I believe that people, after the 11th September attack, are more willing to listen. And even if they don't want to listen, it is necessary to make them responsible for themselves, because each person has his own twin towers. Everybody has a prideful motive, a motive of glory, and a day will arrive in which God will demolish them. God's judgment is coming, because humanity has been corrupted and because Christianity has been abandoned by some.
It is necessary for prophets to know the signs of the times. The Lord reproached the Pharisees because they knew when it was going to rain or when there would be good weather, but they didn't know how to distinguish the signs of the times (Matt. 16:3)! How many Christians today are recognizing the signs of the times in light of the Word, as they look at the things that are happening?
In Isaiah 56:10-11, the Lord reprimands the useless watchmen. They are blind, ignorant watch men, lazy and insatiable. They don't know how to sound the trumpet. Dear brothers, would the Lord not have to tell us in the same thing?
The Call and Commission of a Watchman
Let us review chapters 1 and 2 of Ezekiel to see how God calls a prophet. The first thing that happens is that God reveals himself to Ezekiel. God shows him His glory. There are cherubs, wheels and strange movements. But in verse 26 a throne appears and Somebody is seated on the throne. Does that sound familiar? Ezekiel saw a throne and one seated on the throne. The one seated on the throne had an appearance like that of a man. Could we venture to say that it was the Lord Jesus Christ? He had the appearance of a man. The Father doesn't have a physical expression, but the Lord Jesus Christ does. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed to Ezekiel. He first gives a revelation of Himself. How could one speak on behalf of God if one has never seen God? But if you have seen Him, brothers and sisters, you can prophesy.
Then, God calls the prophet and sends him to the Israelites: "And whether they listen, or fail to listen - for they are a rebellious house - they will know that a prophet has been among them" (2:5) Two things are clear here: that they are rebellious, and the other is that he should go in spite of this, as a testimony. The Lord warns Ezekiel three times that they might not listen to him (2:7; 3:11). The Lord was preparing Ezekiel because he would encounter difficulties.
Then, God instructs Ezekiel to receive the word of God in his stomach and in his heart (3:3,10). Here it does not say that he has to receive it with his mind. It is a serious problem when the word of God is an object of intellectual dissection, or when we accommodate the thoughts of God to our own. If there is anything in which we must be faithful, it is in retaining the Word which has been heard. The stomach and the heart are that intimate, deep place, where our spirit is joined together with the Holy Spirit.
So we have the commendation for the watchman, which is to sound the trumpet when the sword comes. If he doesn't sound it when the danger comes, he is responsible for those who perish.
Message to the Wicked
The message of the watchman is not directed only to the wicked (Ezekiel 33:8), but also to the righteous (33:13). This is something novel. We may think that only the wicked need to listen to the gospel. However, the people of God also need to hear of the Lord.
What will we tell the wicked? According to Ezekiel 33, the wicked should be notified that if he doesn't turn away from his wickedness, he will die. We have to warn men that their current state is condemnation, that they are going straight to hell. You may notice that hell is scarcely preached about. It is not a pleasant topic. Nowadays the gospel is preached to the consumer's pleasure, a "light weight" gospel. However, the wicked should know that their destination is hell their destination is in the eternal flames!
We are always speaking about God's grace, God's mercy. But we have to announce that the day is coming in which God will manifest his anger on all the wicked, on all those that spoke hard words against him. Does it not say so in the Word of God (Jude vs.15)? We need to be confident in warning the wicked about where their path will end, and at the same time testify of the salvation there is in Christ Jesus.
The Great Message to the Righteous
What is our message to the righteous? Brothers and sisters, the great message that Christian's need to hear is a message that causes curiosity simply by mentioning it. What would be the great message that today's Christian's in Temuco, in Chile, in Latin America, and throughout the entire world need to hear? It can be summarized in a single sentence, taken from Paul's letter to Timothy: "Remember Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:8)!
Is Paul saying that to Timothy? It seems out of place. Was Timothy not a trustworthy man? Yes, he was. But the time in which he was living was a time of apostasy. Christians began to disperse throughout the world and meet with it's hollow philosophies. Therefore, Paul has to remind his dear son in the faith: "Remember Jesus Christ!" Today it is the same. Many are forgetting this. There are programs that replace Christ. There are currents, systems and traditions so deeply incorporated in Christianity that Christ is being left out! Christ is being put second! One of our contemporary prophets on one occasion said: "Christ is the most undesirable character, not only in the world, but inside the cathedrals, in the seminaries, and in the most orthodox atmospheres."
"Don't forget Jesus Christ!" "Remember Jesus Christ!" This is the great message which we have to speak to the righteous. Yet, to say this in such a simple and clear way, is, perhaps, not enough. Perhaps we have to go into detail and begin to examine all the things in which the righteous pass their time and that they have left outside of Christ. If not, perhaps they won't realize.
The Great Warning
There is another great warning that we have to give to the righteous in these times. Scripture declares that two signs will happen before the end of time concerning Christians. The first is that the church will be restored. The restoration of all things before the Lord Jesus Christ comes is announced in Acts 3:21. The other sign is the apostasy ("the rebellion" 2 Thessalonians 2:3). On one hand, restoration, and on the other, apostasy. Today's Christian walks as if upon a slack rope: the slack rope of lukewarmness and relaxation. On one side of this slack rope is the abyss of apostasy, and on the other side there is a narrow path and a narrow gate: the restoration of the church.
Do you remember the words of the Lord regarding the narrow gate and the wide gate in Matthew 7:13? We will use this simile to explain the restoration and apostasy. For the Christian, the broad road is the apostasy. Therefore, the narrow gate and the narrow path is the restoration. The wide road is, of course, easy to find while the narrow gate, on the other hand, is difficult to find. There are many Christians who have not found the gate toward restoration. But when one finds it, the heart overflows with joy. One will then say: "How is it that I spent so much time enslaved and thirsty?" Now they have seen the Lord glorified and they have seen the church just as God wants it.
Two Options For the Christian
There is a book by David Wilkerson called The Vision (2). It was published in the 1970's. I am going to mention some fragments from this book to illustrate these two roads, that of the apostasy and that of the restoration.
"I see the formation," says Wilkerson, "of a super world church that will consist of a meeting among the liberal ecumenical Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church. These churches will politically unite, creating one of the most powerful religious forces in the earth. This super world church will be spiritual only in name, and it will use Jesus Christ's name without shame. However in actual fact it will be antichrist and political in many of its activities. He also says that "in this super church homosexuals and lesbians will be admitted. There will be nude dances, there will be hidden practices, etc., etc. Many of these things are already happening. In Europe (and America), there are ordained homosexual ministers, there are ordained ministers that are divorced and there are lesbians that occupy high positions in the leadership of some international denominations.
But notice what will also happen in parallel to that, and which is already happening. Again I quote Wilkerson, "I See a large and supernatural union of Jesus Christ's true followers, gathered together by the Holy Spirit and a common trust in Christ and His Word. This supernatural church of biblical believers will end up being kind of a secret fellowship and will include Catholics and Protestants of all denominations. Young and old, blacks and whites, and people from all the nations will congregate together.
"At the time in which the visible super church acquires political means, this invisible supernatural church -(invisible to the eyes of the world, but visible before God!)- will grow tremendously in spiritual power. This power will come from persecution. The madness of the persecution that will come upon the earth will make these Christians unite even more closely among themselves and draw closer to Jesus Christ. Less importance will be given to denominational concepts and more emphasis to Jesus Christ's return.
"Many won't believe me," says Wilkerson "but I can see the day in which many Protestants, as well as Catholics, should 'come out from among them'. These new Christians won't call themselves Protestants or Catholics, but simply Christians. Their fellowship won't be based on the experience of speaking in tongues, but rather it will be centered in the Father and in his Son Jesus Christ."
And, to finish, "suffering persecution and being aware of the signs of the times, will cause an army of Jesus' true followers to continue arising as warriors. They will be part of an underground church that will preach Christ's return and the end of time. They will be like a thorn in the side of the harlot church, and they will produce remorse and an itching in men's consciences because of their devotion and spiritual power."
Do you see these two roads? There is public apostasy -very public-, and there is the path of restoration in it's almost anonymous and secret form. The final restoration of the church won't have glory in the same way as the church in Jerusalem during Pentecost had. It will be an underground, secret restoration, in small atmospheres, in caves, and in remote places. When persecution comes, it will be invisible to the world. But when one puts their head through the door, they will see the glory of God!
Three Conditions and Three Messages
This is the great warning, and now we will see what the three specific messages are.
In the Old Testament, during the days in which the Kingdom fell into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, God chose three prophets in order to take messages to three different groups of Jews. God sent Jeremiah to Egypt, so that as a watchman, he could warn those that had escaped to Egypt. Then He chose Ezekiel who went to Babylon and there shared with the deported captives. He also chose Daniel to take a prophetic message for the end of days; a message given to a man loved by God so that through him, all those who love God might also know it.
Christians today are in three different conditions. These three conditions are represented by those three Hebrew prophets and by the respective destinations of their messages. They are three different conditions with three different necessities. Christians therefore also need three messages appropriate to their different needs.
The Secularized Christian
There are Christians in Egypt, in the world. They have escaped; they have run away. Jeremiah had to go to Egypt because of those whom God wanted to speak to. If you read Jeremiah, chapters 43 and 44 you will find out what his ministry was in Egypt.
Today's Christians that are in Egypt also needs to listen to this message. What will we say to them?
Many Christians think that the world is not so bad. There are Christians who ignore the fact that the whole world is wicked, that the world's systems are governed by Satan and that politics, the economy and education are all hopelessly poisoned. Christians who ignore this allow themselves to be dazzled by the world's attractions. And many of them go to the world and are devoted to politics, or they transform into an environmentalist or an economist, in order to try to improve the world.
They try to redeem it, to save it from the inside. Yet what has happened? Instead of improving the world, the world has caught them. They have left the Lord and they have adopted the new gods of the world.
We have to tell Christians who are in Egypt that they must leave. We have to tell them what Peter told the Jews on the day of Pentecost: "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!" We have to tell those Christians deceived by the world that it is a bank destined to go bankrupt, that it is a ship that will shipwreck! We must tell them that God's judgment will fall upon the world, that they shouldn't invest there, that they shouldn't dedicate their best days to the world! Let us disenchant them from the world! Let us tell them that they shouldn't have such low goals as those built upon the world. Let us tell them that that it is not the way to God!
2 Timothy shows us the time of apostasy, foreshadowing what should come. There is Demas, Alexander and others that have abandoned the faith, in favor of loving the world. Wilkerson, in The Vision, speaks of three great temptations that Christians will encounter in the end time, and I believe that they will mainly affect these secularized Christians: sexual immorality, prosperity, and the relaxation of customs. How many Christians are, drinking whisky, seated in front of a 50 inch TV screen, and laughing happily! How many of them will remain behind when the Lord comes to look for his church!
The Victory Over the World
We hold in great esteem the revelation that the Father has given us about the Lord Jesus Christ. Brethren, what does that revelation say? It says: "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt.16:16). Now then, if you look at 1 John chapter 5, you will find that everybody who believes that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God (v.1), and that everybody who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, overcomes the world (v.5)! Do you find that faith possible brethren, amid the avalanche that is coming over us? Those that have been born of God overcome the world! When the devil comes with temptations and suggestions, simply tell him that: I believe that Jesus is the Son of God!
The revelation to Peter was very specific: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then it was revealed, as the Lord told him: "On this rock I will build my church." Which rock? The Christ that was revealed and confessed, that is the Rock! We won't get tired of saying it. We will continue declaring and confessing, and we will teach it to our children: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! And then the Lord added, as if to reaffirm our faith: "And the gates of Hades will not overcome it (the Church)" (Matt. 16:18). Hallelujah, glory to the Lord!
Those That are in Captivity
Next we turn to the Christians who are in captivity. Ezekiel was sent to Babylon as a watchman. Babylon, being the cradle of all the pagan religions which were on the earth at that time, represents the confused religious tangle that has become traditional Christianity which has suffocated the life and the testimony of God.
Nevertheless, God also has people there. For these dear children of God there is a message. They have to be warned with love, but with clarity. They are more exposed than anybody to the dangers of the three "T's".
The Danger of the Three T's
You know that Judaism, as a religion, had three pillars: the Torah (the law), the Temple and the Talmud (the tradition). These three words begin with T. Judaism had these three pillars, and all religions that pride themselves in such a way also have them. That is to say, they have a sacred book, a sacred place and a system of traditions. The bad thing is that Christianity has also copied Judaism, and has appropriated these three T's.
The traditional Christianity has its Torah, that is to say, its Bible. They celebrate days of the Bible, and surrender homage to the Book. The Lord told the Jews: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life" (John 5:39-40). It is in Christ, not in the Book that there is life! But many Christians seem to remain ignorant of this. They hold the Bible in great esteem, but the fact that Christ is absent among them does not worry them.
The other T is the Temple. In the Old covenant, God inhabited a temple. However, he no longer inhabits temples. Why then do Christians follow the Jewish pattern. Why do they still build temples for God to live in? When they leave to go home, they say: "Lord, accompany us." As if God stayed in the temple and they go home empty! Is this not a terrible ignorance? How would you feel if, after a church meeting, you went home empty, without the Lord? It is the greatest disgrace!
Christ came to live in us; he will never leave us. We, the body of Christ, are the true temple! God no longer dwells in temples made by human hands! He dwells in a warmer, more welcome temple which is the church of the living God, built on the firm foundation of the apostles and prophets, and whose living stones are our hearts!
The third T is the Talmud, that is to say, the oral tradition that has also come to enlarge our belief system. Thus the older the denomination, the larger their Talmud. As they have two hundred or three hundred years of history, a history recorded in books, when the hour comes in which they want to know the next step that they have to take, they consult their Talmud.
Christians that are in captivity that cling to their Torah, to their Temple and to their Talmud, should be warned. They are huddled in their temples, in their biblical studies without revelation, in a religious tradition, aided under the shade of a good doctrine or of an eminent man of the past. For that reason the Lord cannot move among them. He can not lead them. The organization and the routine replaces the Lord.
It may seem, we are suggesting that we are doing everything correctly and that this is not our problem. But our viewpoint is subjective, and from seeing our own deformities so frequently, we get used to them. For that reason, we need to listen attentively so the Spirit can speak to us through the Word. Also, we need to listen attentively to the observations of other saints of God. Then they can make known to us all they see that is less than Christ. We need judgment, we need the scrutiny of other servants of God. Do not let it happen like that vainglorious one who looked in the water and found himself to be very beautiful.
Brothers and sisters, the church doesn't exist to look at itself. It exists to look at Him! It exists to glorify Him! We sometimes speak too much about the church. There are too many messages about the church. There are many books on the church. Do you know what? It is not our duty to speak about the church. The bride doesn't speak about herself. She speaks about Him, her love! Do you remember the trip that Abraham's servant and Rebecca took? Do you think they spoke about on the road? They spoke of Isaac, the groom that was waiting! The servant spoke of Isaac, and only of Isaac. He spoke in such a way that by the end of that journey, the bride had fallen so deeply in love with Isaac that she didn't find in difficult to subject herself to him the moment she saw him! I believe the Holy Spirit is speaking to us of Christ so when we see him, we surrender ourselves to him!
The Message to the Faithful Remnant
Now to finish, there is a third message to the children of God, to the beloved and the faithful. I believe that Daniel's ministry represents these servants of God and that the message of God is for them. Do you know, brothers and sisters -and I will say this very carefully so that nobody becomes conceited-.Today, just as Wilkerson says, there is a remnant on the earth. A remnant chosen by grace. All of the remnant throughout history is chosen by grace!
They are God's beloved. They, just like Enoch, walk with God, and in some moment they will be taken away with Him. Their communion with God is so intimate that God will take them away. The day will come when the beloved of God will be raptured. These saints and beloved know that, without him, they are nothing. They have been tested by failure. They have been in the dust of the earth. But they are "beloved, and chosen and faithful."
But there is also a message for the beloved: Be careful with your confidence in your own righteousness, as it says in Ezekiel 33:13! Be careful those of you who think that you are Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7)! Be careful in confiding that you have the Father's revelation about Christ! Be careful, you can still backslide. "So if you think that you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Cor 10:12). Having a great knowledge of the mysteries of the Word can make the heart fill up with presumption and vanity. There are some of God's beloved that have fallen in this, and today they have become Laodicea, saying: "We don't have need of anything" (Rev. 3:17).
The worst thing that could happen to them is having so much wealth they become conceited. And because they have the imputed justice of God they could live ungodly lives, flirting with sin, thinking that because they are beloved, God will treat them with favoritism. Oh, Be careful of that danger! You could sin, and perhaps even fear of God's judgment to come, but when the punishment does not arrive, you say, "It seems that God treats me with favoritism." Perhaps you slip and sin again and again the hand of God doesn't come, then you relax a little more. Oh, but in some moment, suddenly, the blow comes! And then you realize that God doesn't treat you with favoritism. God doesn't treat any man with favoritism. His principles are eternal. He hates sin, in whatever form!
So, don't relax! Don't trust yourself! Assure yourself that you will not loose the fear of God. When we have walked for a time in the Christian life, we can appreciate what it means to fear God. Now we better understand, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."
Are you beloved? Yes! But, be careful, you must fear as well! Fear. Fear God! You must say, just what the psalmist in the Psalm 119:120 said: "My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws." Lord, I stand in awe of your laws! Free me! Speak to me at the right time, persuade me at the right time! I don't want to fall, I am afraid! Are you a beloved, chosen and faithful one? Tremble, tremble! Much you have been given, much will be demanded.
As watchman then, we have a message for the secularized Christian, for the Christian captured in Babylon, and also for the beloved and faithful.
What Will We Do?
The panorama that has been described allows us to visualize diverse fields of action for God's prophets that want to participate in His work. God is taking His purposes forward. Let us not have the smallest doubt about this. To carry His purposes out, God will use those that are willing to be used (2 Tim.2:20-21).
In times of crisis and apostasy, like those we are already living in, there are two attitudes that the children of God can assume: that of Noah or that of Lot.
While Noah prepared the ark for himself and his family to survive in, he did not remain quiet. The Scriptures say that he was a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5). A preacher is one that proclaims. And a proclamation is, literally, "the publication of something that one makes out loud and in public." Nobody can be a secret proclaimer. Noah did not keep quiet regarding the announcement that God had given him, but rather he proclaimed it aloud and to everybody who wanted to hear it.
Lot's attitude, however, was very different than that of Noah. Lot suffered because of the depraved behavior of his countrymen, and he felt overwhelmed (or oppressed) by them, but he was not a watchman for them. Lot's weakness contrasts with the strength of Noah's testimony. Lot was not a conqueror.
Which will our model be? I have here two clearly differentiated paths. Let us ask our blessed God to grant us the privilege of serving him, even in a small way, in His work. Thus, His work would be our work.
(1) This translation appears in the Reina Valera 1960 Bible used in Chile.
(2) Although the original Sermon contained the exact quotation from Wilkerson's book, this article contains only a translation of the Spanish, and is not therefore a direct reference from the book itself.