Believing we are in the 'last days', and being unconvinced of a pre-tribulation rapture, I am currently studying the Word to see what 'marks' the Lord puts on men to protect them from the coming judgment on the earth. This series will be called 'Marked Men'. I recommend the excellent book of the same title written by Al Houghton of Word at Work Ministries, Placentia, California, ISBN 0-940252-02-3. It was reading this book that started my research into this subject.
Part 1: The mark of the Name.
Part 2: The mark of Intercession.
Part 3: The mark of Anointing.
Part 4: The mark of the Cross.
Part One: The mark of the Name.
Most believers are aware of the 'mark of the beast' and its mystical number 666. Yet very few seem to be aware that whatever Satan is doing in the natural, we can be sure he is imitating something that God is already doing in the spiritual.
In the last days he will perform miracles to deceive multitudes, because God is already doing great miracles through His Spirit poured out. Compare Rev.13:3,4 and 14-18 with the promises of Joel 2
He will put his mark and number upon those who will worship him - because the Lord is also putting His mark on His people - but not all! Many believers will suffer during the tribulation because they do not bear His mark.
Reading: Revelation 3: 7-13 - The letter to the church of Philadelphia.
In 'dispensational' teaching, these seven letters represent seven ages of the church from the time of Jesus until the present day. We may summarise:
Ephesus: from time of Jesus to times of persecution begun in AD60s. lost its 'first love'Smyra:~AD70to the birth of Christendom under Rome in the C4th. persecuted Pergamumbuild up of the Roman church.compromising Thyatirapolitical, worldly agenda, manipulative.political Sardisfrom 'reformation' to liberalism.drifting Philadelphia from mid nineteenth century.missionary Laodiceapresent day.'luke-warm'
. It is my conviction that we have all seven churches present today. It should be noted that, of the seven, only Smyrna and Philadelphia receive no condemnation. The suffering and the missionary church is still near to the Father's heart.
However, to the Philadelphia church, wonderful promises are given that refer to a time of great tribulation. Note Rev 3:13: "... I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God .... and My new name." (the three-fold name to correspond with the three-fold number of Satan?) What makes this church, these people, so special?
Consider their NAME: Philadelphia. The name indicates 'Lovers of the Brethren'. These are a people who love one another, in obedience to the command of their Lord. They have a kingdom vision, motivated by love - not a narrow sectarian, local-church-only attitude.
Consider the GOD THEY KNOW: To know a people, look at the god they serve. He has revealed Himself to them as holy and true. This indicates that they are a people who honour holiness and integrity. They try to live their lives with these same qualities. He is also the One whom they can trust with their destiny, opening doors that no one can shut and shutting doors that no one can open.
Consider their CHARACTER: They have 'a little power'; have kept His word; have not denied His name. This word for power is interesting. It is not exousia, the power all believers receive at new birth, by which we become Sons of God. (John 1:12). It is dunamis, the power promised and first received on the Day of Pentecost, by which disciples are enabled to minister in their giftings with anointing, and by which they are witnesses. (Acts 1:8). These are believers who minister, not in their own strength but in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. Secondly, they are faithful to His Word, living by its principles. Thirdly, they are true to their testimony, they are not ashamed, so that all know they belong to the Lord.
In response to this, the Lord makes some wonderful promises:
"I will put before you an open door." When other believers are finding difficulties before them, Philadelphia Christians find the barriers falling down. They alone see the seas parting, the walls falling, the difficulties overcome, disappointments becoming His appointments.
"Unbelievers - of the synagogue of Satan - will bow down before you, knowing you are loved by the Lord." This is revival - "when God comes to town".
"You will be kept from the hour of testing that is coming upon the whole world." ('Tribulation'?). [Some want to be raptured out of the world before that awful day comes, leaving the non-believers and the Jews to suffer alone. I am not convinced that is what the Bible in fact teaches. However, if I am to go through tribulation (as much of the church is already experiencing), I want to know that the Lord is keeping me! ]
"I will make the overcomer a pillar in the temple of My God." Wherever the Lord is going to dwell - His temple - the Philadelphia believer will be constantly in His presence. [What a reward for the missionary who has given up home and family to serve the Lord in this life!]
To such people, the mark of God is given, a mark that Satan tries to duplicate on his own, deceived followers:
"I will write on him, the three-fold name." The name of My God indicates ownership; the name of the city of My God (New Jerusalem) indicates destination; My new name indicates changed character. At that time, being kept by the Lord, the world will recognise us as belonging to Him, destined to reign with Him and with a new character, like unto His. This is a glorious life of victory while all the world around us in struggling in the battle against the antiChrist. Like the 144,000 Jewish 'evangelists' of the Tribulation days, these believers will be kept, will be glorious overcomers before whom the unbelievers will fall, will be destined to dwell in His presence throughout His millennial reign on earth. Hallelujah!
Is it not time for you to leave your church and join the Church of Philadelphia? Leave Ephesus, the church of the 'lost love' and cross over today. Leave Pergamum, the church of 'compromise' and cross over today. Leave Thyatira, the church of 'politicking' and cross over today. Leave Sardis, the church of 'drifting' and cross over today. Leave Laodicea, the church of the 'luke-warm' and cross over today.
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Part Two: The mark of the Intercessor.
Reading: Ezekiel 8-10 especially 9:4: "...and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in (the city)"
Ezekiel is in captivity in Babylon when he has a vision of the situation 'back home' in Jerusalem. He is taken to the temple where he sees the great evils being done by the elders, the leaders and the women in worshipping false gods and the sun. God is about to bring judgment upon the city and upon its leaders, 'beginning at the sanctuary'. This is always God's way - He starts any cleansing process by dealing with His own people first.
He calls forth six executioners from the gate facing north, and they are given the awful task of destroying every man, woman and child because of the evils done in the city. However, there is also among them, a man clothed in linen with a writing case at his side. To him is given a task of 'grace'. Before the executioners begin, he is to "go through the city, through Jerusalem, and to put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it."
I call this mark the mark of the Intercessor. These represent those today whose hearts are heavy because of the state of the church and the land wherein they live, and are motivated to cry before God on behalf of their church and nation. The Scriptures teach that God is looking for two peoples - those who worship in spirit and in truth (worshippers - John 4:23), and those who will stand in the gap between men and God (intercessors - Ez.22:30).
I believe that the man in linen represents the Lord Jesus - one sent to bring deliverance to God's faithful people in a time of judgment. It is sure that the early church, being warned of a coming persecution, were aware of this scripture and the promised deliverance for the faithful. There is also a message for us today as we face growing persecution and the times of the end are drawing nearer.
As the man clothed in linen begins his mercy ministry, the Shekinah glory of God removes from the mercy seat and comes outside the temple from where it is soon to depart, never to return until Christ returns. Ezekiel's heart is heavy as the executioners prepare to do their work, for he cannot understand the wrath of God. "Ah, Lord God!" he exclaims, "wilt thou destroy all that remains of Israel in the outpouring of thy wrath upon Jerusalem?"(9:8). Most have already been moved away to captivity; now the remnant are to be destroyed, (except those with the mark on their foreheads).
God answers to show Ezekiel how abominable in His sight, is sin among His own people (9:9). Oh, that we could understand the awfulness of sin among a redeemed people, from God's perspective. Only then can we begin to sigh and groan for our church and nation, as we should. We need another, clearer view of the cross!
The man in linen returns and the executioners are sent out. The time for judgment upon Jerusalem has (prophetically) come. Are we also nearing the time when the wrath of God is about to be revealed on our world in judgment?
This raises another interesting question in my mind. How does a God who is love show His wrath? As I study Romans 1:18- 32, I see 'the wrath of God is revealed from heaven' when He 'gave them up' to their lusts and passions (24, 26,28). He shows His wrath by 'taking His hand off' rather than putting His hand on us. When there is no king in Israel and men do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25), God takes His hand off with the result being great evil, and the fruit of that evil, in the land.
"It is an awful thing to fall into the hands of a living God" said the prophet. I suggest that for the covenant child of God, it is a far more awful thing to find His hand no longer upon us, allowing Satan to do his worst! Will we escape by being 'raptured out' before that time, or will we go through that time, either suffering the tribulation pains, or being kept because He has put a mark on our forehead (figuratively?)
One of the many reasons I have for believing that we are approaching the last days, is the great increase in the numbers of people I meet, who have a burden for intercession. It is evident that the Lord is already preparing His praying, interceding people for the outpouring of His Spirit, promised in Joel 2. These are people who know what it is to wait upon the Lord in prayer, oftentimes in silence and solitude.
They are also the people most in tune with knowing God's heart for the times and places wherein we live. It is through them that God is speaking to church leaders, directing them how to be overcomers in reaching their communities with the Gospel news. Are we recognising the intercessors among us, as we should, and are we hearing God's voice speaking to His church?
Part Three: The mark of Anointing. (Also called the mark of burnt lips!)
Continue reading in Ezekiel 10:1
The man clothed in linen has returned from his mercy ministry of marking all who sigh and groan, with a mark upon their foreheads. He is now instructed to go between the cherubim beneath the throne, to take a handful of burning coals from the glory there, and to scatter them over the city, where the executioners are currently doing their work.
The glory of the Lord, present above the cherubim, is about to leave the temple, but first, the Lord makes a last-days prophecy (11:16-20) of the return to Israel of His people, from the countries to which they had been scattered; of His placing a new heart and new spirit, within them, obedient to His ordinances. They shall be His people and He shall be their God. Then the glory leaves!
I ask myself the significance of these coals from the presence of the Glory. We have no indication in the Scripture of their purpose or effect. Some commentators write of them as the final burning judgment upon Jerusalem, but I do not see it that way. The man clothed in linen, who distributes these coals, is not an avenger but a minister of God's mercy. It was not His role to reveal the wrath of God but to mark out His saints for deliverance from the wrath.
In the Scriptures, I see two roles for fire. It is certainly true that our God is a consuming fire before which we rightly tremble. The hymn writer expresses it well in this, a favourite verse: Eternal Light! Eternal Light! How pure the soul must be, when placed within Thy searching sight, it shrinks not - but with calm delight can live and look on Thee!
However, there is also the fire that burns but does not consume! Moses saw such a fire when the Lord was present on Horeb (Ex 3:2). Here, Moses was called to his great work of bringing deliverance to the people of God. The Children of Israel saw the same when the pillar of fire led them each night through the wilderness (Ex 13:22). This same fire of Glory - Shekinah - sat upon the tabernacle each night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, being replaced by a cloud during the day (Ex 40:38).
The three Hebrew children experienced this same fire in the fiery furnace, where the appearance of their companion was 'like a son of God' (Daniel 3:25). The apostles experienced the same fire on the day of Pentecost when it sat upon each of them in appearance like tongues of flame (Acts 2:3).
As I read these, I am reminded of the time when the prophet Isaiah has a vision of the throne of the Lord, before whom the angels cry out Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah 6). The prophet cries out in despair for he realises his sinfulness in the holiness of the presence of God. "Woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips; ... for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!" An angel then flies to him with a burning coal from the altar - and touches his lips! Ouch! - but the purpose is not to consume or scar him but to cleanse and anoint.
Isaiah is to become a spokesman for the Lord. He is to "Go and say ...." (6:9). This is his explanation of his "call" into the service of the Lord of Hosts.
I believe that the man clothed in linen scatters the coals from between the cherubim as an anointing upon those whom He has marked to be kept from the judgment coming upon the church and nation. Isaiah could have spoken in his own ability but unclean lips cannot speak forth with the anointing of God - only those whom God has touched can do so. One of the greatest needs in the church today is for men and women who are ministering under the anointing of God! We have far too many 'ministering' with little or no anointing, and many of them are in the pulpits!
When the prophet Elijah was taken away into heaven, his mantle fell to the ground and was picked up by his prodigy Elisha (2 Kings 2). The latter had asked for a double portion of the anointing evident upon his master, but there was no evidence yet of his having received such. He took the mantle of Elijah and, with it, struck the waters of the Jordan, crying out, "Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?" God answered by parting the waters as He had done for Elijah (2 Kings 2:14). Today, we might well cry out "Where are the Elijahs of God?"
Where are the men and women anointed by Him and operating, not in their own strength and with their own finely-tuned programs, but with His agenda and with His dunamis power (Acts 1:8)? Praise the Lord, I have met some and the mark of burnt lips is evident upon them.
Just one example: In 1997, Anne and I were in Tauranga, New Zealand where we visited a small church meeting in a school classroom. We were welcomed by a young man who apologised that their pastor was on vacation and that we would have to listen to him instead. That did not bother us too much as we had just spent four years observing the ministry of other young men and women with Youth With A Mission. He spoke from Philippians 1:6, "He who began a good work in you, will perfect it ..."
When he finished, I turned to Anne and asked her opinion. "The most anointed preaching I have heard in twenty years," she said. I hope she was wrong as she has heard me preach several times(!), but my sentiments were the same as hers. The young man had spoken to our spirits and not only to our souls - we had been fed eternal food, prepared in the throne room of God. When you have heard anointed preaching or teaching, nothing else satisfies in the same way.
I could give many such examples from my own experience but space here is insufficient. How I thank God for the anointed teachers, preachers and others ministering in their Holy Spirit gifts, who have impacted my life with seed that will produce eternal fruit.
Part Four: The mark of the Cross.
Continuing a consideration of the mark in Ezekiel 8.
The Hebrew Scriptures tell us that the mark put upon the foreheads of those who 'sigh and groan' is tau, the Hebrew letter. This letter is T - the mark of the cross. The early church would have been aware of this mark and its significant 'shape'. Do we bear the mark of the cross upon us today?
When I became a believer at the age of 17 I was taught that Jesus had called me to take up my cross. This was explained as abstaining from smoking, drinking alcohol, dancing and keeping company with others who did these things! In my case, there was one extra - I was told that I must stop playing football! Fortunately, I was radical (or arrogant) enough not to accept this teaching.
At the time of Jesus, religious leaders went to the scribes to have them interpret the teachings of the Old Testament, their Torah. They boasted in their ability to keep these scribal laws, but Jesus taught that obedience to such interpretations did not produce the righteousness demanded by Jahweh.
We have many 'scribal laws' today, such as the above, which have little to do with righteousness! We forbid people to hold office in our churches because (for example) they smoke, but we allow other leaders to exaggerate (tell lies!), be addicted to coffee (a drug!) and play political games. (How long a list do you want?) I think smoking is a filthy habit, and no Christian should be subject to it, but it has far less negative impact on the testimony of the church than many of the things we do permit. Jesus said, "It is not that which enters a man which defiles him, but that which proceedeth out of his mouth." (Matthew 15:11)
I do not accept that obedience to such laws is what Jesus meant by taking up our cross and following Him. Above all things else, the cross speaks of death - death to self and one's own natural desires. It means being able to pray the disciples' prayer without hypocrisy. "Hallowed (worshipped) be Thy name" - not my name; "Thy Kingdom come" - not my petty little empire; "Thy will be done" - not my will.
I like to look at the humanity of Jesus - His coming to the world, His lifestyle and His teaching - as the prime example of the kind of man I should be. He demonstrated in His life (as well as in His death) what it means to take up one's cross. Paul writes of Jesus, that though he existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be held on to, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. As a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
Jesus taught many things about the lifestyle he expects of his followers, but the teachings that strike me most forcefully, show clearly what he meant by taking up one’s cross and dying to self. It is his teaching on Greatness in the Kingdom.
One day, in Capernaum, Jesus asked his disciples what they had been discussing on the way. One would like to imagine that they were discussing the Scriptures about the Messiah to see if their master fulfilled all requirements. Or they might have been planning how they could better organize the crowds that came to hear Jesus. Instead we read that they were embarrassed because they were arguing which of them was the greatest! (Mark 9:34) Now we wouldn’t do that, would we??
Jesus tells them the characteristics of the greatest (and therefore the human characteristics of himself) in five illustrations.
Greatness in the Kingdom or taking up one’s cross, dying to oneself, means:
1.To become like alittle child(Matt.18:4).Cannot hold offense; transparent; dependant; lacking guile, etc.2.Made willing to be as thelast(Mark 9:35).Seeking no prizes; non-competitive; willing to wait; etc.3.Made willing to be as theleast(Luke 9:48).Wanting to exalt others; seeking no recognition; not offended when passed over for honours, etc.4.To be as theyoungest(Luke 22:26).No inheritance; not interested in maintaining the ‘status quo’; a stranger in this world, etc.5.To be as aservant to all(Mark 9:35).Seeking the betterment of others; ‘Others’-minded; Refreshing – washing feet; etc.
“He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:38).
“Let this attitude be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5).