…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matt. 16:18)
Jesus spoke of His Church for the first time the moment God revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, and Peter spoke the revelation of Christ forth. Jesus called THAT a massive rock upon which He would build His Church (making a play on words, for Peter means little rock).
In the very same breath, Jesus declared that the ruling powers of darkness will not overcome His Church. May our Father in heaven cause every member of His Christ to KNOW this, BELIEVE it, and STAND FIRM upon it, that He may be glorified therein. May He also give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation as we set aside sufficient time to press into the Scriptures in order that we may better know Him and His end-time purposes for us, His blessed Church, His overcomers. Amen.
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Now, The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8b). Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:15). It is finished! (John 19:39). So why are the devil and his authorities still here and the world situation worsening, with the antichrist yet to appear in the very near future?
As covered in Part 3, Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2 tell us God’s purpose for man is to glorify Him by exercising dominion over His creation; that includes exercising dominion over all angelic beings, both fallen and pure. Paul expresses it this way in this key Scripture, Ephesians 3:10:
[God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God would be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We, His Church, are the very Body through which the manifold wisdom of God is to be made known to Satan, the antichrist, and the other rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms! In His infinite wisdom, the God of peace has determined that Satan will be crushed under our feet – for we sinners redeemed by the blood of the Lamb are now Christ’s seed (see Gen. 3:14-15, Ro. 16:20).
Praise God for His wisdom! Praise Him for His sovereignty!
Now, consider how a plant seed functions: the outer husk of a seed must die in order for the inner germ to be released into the soil (John 12:24). That is one of God’s seed principles: life only comes THROUGH death (see also these two profound passages: 2 Cor. 4:10-12; Phil. 3:10-11). THAT is the divine design; it is THROUGH death that Life overcomes death (Satan / this fallen world / our fallen selves). Resurrection power comes through Christ’s death: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55; see also Heb. 2:14-15).
Notice that once Jesus announced that He would build His Church and that it would NOT be overcome, he began to explain to his disciples that he must… suffer many things… and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matt. 16:15-27). This suffering He explained and then modeled for us is that eternal life comes through dying to self and to the world (Gal. 6:15).
But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps… When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:20b-23).
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. (1 Peter 4:1).
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear the name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God… (1 Peter 4:16-17a, emphasis added).
Now that we’ve established the necessity of sharing in Christ’s sufferings, we are ready to address some key components of God’s plans for His Church in these end times. Please pay close attention and press into the Lord, for many Scriptures are about to come together. Keep in mind when reading them that throughout all His dealings with Israel in the OT, God always preserved a faithful remnant…
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A brief synopsis of some key components of God’s end-time plans for His overcoming Church
As explained in Part 3, the extent to which we share in Christ’s glory is the extent to which we share in His sufferings (~Ro.8:17); If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20). The persecution that the Church has suffered throughout the world in the past two millennia will spread tremendously in these tumultuous end times. Persecution is the primary fire through which God purifies and fortifies His people (e.g. the Book of Acts), and He is purifying His Church of its present lukewarm Laodicean character, leaving a remnant of persevering Philadelphian overcomers (see Rev. 3:7-22).
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God (1 Pet. 4:17a)… When God executes judgment, the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes. (Isaiah 66:14).
Behold and rejoice over what Jesus promises the patient Church remnant of Philadelphian character after enduring persecution: I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. (Rev. 3:9-10)
Jesus is assuring His Church remnant that their sufferings are NOT part of the great and terrible Day of the Lord that the rest of the world will have to experience, just as Paul assured the godly Thessalonian believers that the sufferings they were enduring were NOT indicative of it in the key second chapter of 2 Thessalonians (please discern whether the Lord is leading you to review it today).
See, the antichrist (called “the man of lawlessness” therein) cannot be revealed UNTIL the restraining power of the Holy Spirit (that’s us – the Church!) is removed as the Bridegroom comes to seize His Bride up to be with Him in His Father’s house (2 Thess. 2:6-7; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; John 14:2-3; see also Part 4: The Bride of Christ). (Be assured that the omnipresent Holy Spirit remains, enabling the sealed Jewish remnant and elect Gentiles to receive Christ after the Church, His restraining function, the very Body of Christ, is removed from earth.)
Those believers alive at the time will be caught up to meet all the resurrected dead saints and our Bridegroom in the air – that is, they’ll be translated in a moment, the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet (1 Cor. 15:50-58). The Greek word for “caught up” in 1 Thess. 4:17 is “harpazo”: it means to seize or snatch suddenly. (The Latin Vulgate translated it “rapturo”, from which the English term “rapture” is derived.) This is our blessed hope (Titus 2:13): that our heavenly Bridegroom is coming to snatch His Bride up to heaven to consummate the marriage, delivering her from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:10), described by Jesus as great tribulation, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. (Matt. 24:21).
As mentioned in Part 4, the Jewish wedding supper was celebrated for seven days. This corresponds with the seven years of Daniel’s 70th “week” that the Jews and Gentiles will experience as soon as the Church is removed from the scene (Dan. 9:20-27, espc. v.27). The first 3 1/2 years of that 7-year period, the antichrist deceives everyone that he is the Christ – all are saying, “Peace and safety” (1 Thess. 5:3), because the troublesome Church, the restrainer until that point, has been removed. Then the antichrist reveals his true colors: the abomination that causes desolation appears (Dan 9:27; Matt. 24:15), setting off the great tribulation, which is the second 3 1/2 years of Daniel’s 70th “week”.
Do you see how these Scriptures come together? * Isn’t God astounding?
Lastly, I leave a key for unlocking some of the mysteries of one of the most symbolic chapters of end-time prophecy, Revelation 12. The Greek word “harpazo” also appears here in verse 5: She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. There are many linguistic subtleties in the Greek regarding “a son, a male child” that we won’t address now, but we will simply say that the Church overcomers are the male child, snatched up to meet Him in the air, precipitating the war in heaven in v. 7. Perhaps more on this another time when we’ll discuss what the Church will be doing during those 7 years, God willing. [Ed: It is addressed in Part 10: The Male Child Caught Up to God and to His Throne; see also Part 11: Displacing the Devil from the Heavenly Realms – Operation Footstool]
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So, it is vital that we know that the Church will not be overcome by Satan or his antichrist (also called the beast, the man of lawlessness, and the little horn). Jesus assured us this in the very same sentence in which He announced that He would build His Church (see opening Scripture). The apostle and seer John reiterates this important point three times in his first epistle:
You, dear children, are from God, and have overcome them [the antichrist and all evil spirits – past tense!], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one [past tense!]. (1 John 2:13, and again in v.14)
The first and most important reason why we must know that we Church saints will NOT be overcome by the powers of darkness is so that we can endure our godly sufferings, rejoicing knowing our blessed hope! Remember from Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Darby).
The second reason is so that we properly understand the end-time prophecies (see Part 1). See, both NT and OT end-time prophecies mention saints being overcome by the antichrist, but they are Jews and Gentiles who come to receive Christ during the great tribulation.
In The Revelation of Jesus Christ we are told that He [the beast] was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. (13:7).
In Daniel we are told As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom… [Daniel was then given this explanation]: …He [the little horn] will speak against the Most High and oppress His saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time [3 1/2 years]. But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (Daniel 7:21-22, 25-27, emphasis added).
[To be continued, addressing our exalted position as the court next…]
* Please read the comments below regarding the Thessalonian epistles being KEY to revealing there are two phases to Christ’s Second Coming, and links to two charts you may find very helpful on two different Biblical websites.