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The Christian Counter

     
THE CLOSE OF PROBATION
Lesson 21
page 1 of 2

Review

A testing time is coming upon the whole world.  Everyone will have his faith thoroughly tested.  Everyone living on planet Earth will hear that salvation comes by faith.  The test will center on obedience. Those submitting to the lamb-like beast will put their faith in him and those worshiping the Lamb of God will put their faith in Him.  The point is clearly made in Revelation that “all inhabitants of the earth” will worship one of the two lambs.

The promise of salvation

We have studied the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11.  They are identified as the Bible and the Holy Spirit.  These two powers work together for the salvation of man.  The Bible is the testimony of God.  The Holy Spirit is the power of God.  Together, they testify of salvation and its requirements.  Everyone on earth will hear their message before the end comes.  The clarion message of salvation will cause a great controversy upon earth.  The preaching of the gospel truth will cause great anger and resistance from those who love evil, for “those who love evil hate the light.”

Every person on earth will be reached during the short time-period of the trumpets.  The powerful struggle against the gospel will only give the gospel greater attention!  Like a great forest fire, the gospel will first spread through populated cities and then to distant places of the world.  Persecution will force people to flee for safety and as they flee, the gospel will be carried with them.  This is how the gospel will go to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.  The 144,000 expose Babylon’s doctrine as lies and in return, Babylon seeks to destroy them as their followers.

There is a historical parallel to the scenario in the paragraph above.  After Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostles preached the gospel of Jesus and the promise of His return with great power and 3,000 were baptized at Pentecost!  The religious leaders and civil authorities could not tolerate such interest in the truth.  So, the fires of persecution were kindled and as the saints scattered to the four corners of the earth, they carried the gospel with them!

Jesus warned his disciples, “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.  But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you.  They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all account of my name.  This will result in your being witnesses to them.  But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.  Parents will betray you; brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  All men will hate you because of me.  But not a hair of your head will perish.  By standing firm you will save yourselves.”  Luke 21:11-19 Two points should be emphasized from these verses:

  1. Jesus has promised to give his followers the words to say when challenged for their faith!
  2. Even though the world will hate you, Jesus says, “You will save yourself by standing firm.”

It must be emphasized that Jesus has promised to be with each one of his children during this time of trial.  He said,  “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

The Spirit of Prophecy

We have seen earlier that the remnant is identified as keeping the commandments of God and holding to the testimony of Jesus.  Revelation 12:17, 14:12 We know what the commandments are, but what is the testimony of Jesus?

Toward the end of John’s vision, he was so grateful to the attending angel that he bowed at his feet to worship him.  But the angel said, “Do not do it!  I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus.  Worship God!  For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  Revelation 19:10

The angel said the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.  What does this mean?  It means that the remnant have prophetic understanding through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, they will understand what God is going to do and why?  The remnant will anticipate the fulfillment of each event and be prepared for it!  Daniel was told, “Many (of the remnant) will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked.  None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”  Daniel 12:10

The remnant will not be caught by surprise.  They will be prepared through careful Bible study and prayer.  Perhaps one of the clearest evidences of this point is found in Revelation 17:8 Notice, “The beast, which you saw, will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction.  The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast.”   In other words, John says the world will be astonished when Satan appears, while studying the prophecies will be prepared!

Three groups of remnant people

The apostles were a select group of men.  They were given a special opportunity to learn about Jesus and the kingdom of heaven that others did not have.  For three a half years they walked with Jesus and learned from Him.  He was preparing them for the great work they must do after He returned to the Father.

After the ascension of Jesus, the apostles received the power of the Holy Spirit.  It was quite an experience.  It happened at the Feast of Pentecost, which is 50 days after the Passover.  Attendance at the feast was required according to ceremonial law, so Jews from all over Asia were in Jerusalem at the time.  To expedite the gospel, the Holy Spirit created a great noise – a sound like a violent wind came from heaven and what appeared to be tongues of flames of fire appeared on the heads of the apostles.

This interruption of the Pentecost service gained immediate attention, for those with flames of fire upon them began to speak in the native languages of the Jews present.  The author of Acts says,  “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard the sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each heard them speaking in his own language.  Utterly amazed, they asked; ‘ Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parathions, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongue!”  Acts 2:5-11 This demonstration by the Holy Spirit caused three things to happen:

  1. The gospel immediately transcended the language barrier, for everyone heard the gospel in his own tongue.
  2. The number of Jews receiving Jesus Christ and His gospel increased thirty-fold that day.
  3. Those accepting the gospel carried their newfound faith to distant lands where the apostles would never be able to go.

Notice the process:  Jesus started His ministry with only 12 disciples.  When the Holy Spirit was given to them at the Pentecost ceremony, Jesus reached 3,000 more Jewish people!  These new converts went home and told even more Jewish people about Jesus.  About three and half years later, Jesus sent the disciples to the Gentiles to gather an even larger harvest of believers!  (Remember 34 A.D. – the commission of Peter and the conversion of Saul?)  This is how the gospel went throughout the world in ancient times and this is a sample of how the gospel will go throughout the world in our day.

In Revelation, we have a process almost identical to Pentecost.  First, Jesus selects and seals 144,000 people as “spark plugs.”  These people know the testimony of the Bible.  They have studied themselves full, thought themselves straight and prayed for power to give the message.  Jesus then grants the request of these people for power by giving them the power of the Holy Spirit’s “latter rain.”

Note:  The term latter rain refers to the second or large rain that fell in Palestine in the autumn of each year just before harvest time.  The first (a small or early rain) usually occurred in the spring of the year and winter crops were harvested and presented before the Lord at the Feast of Pentecost.  The analogy is that both rains brought the crops to maturity.  The larger and most bountiful harvest occurred at the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn because the “latter rain” brought the summer crops to maturity.  See Deuteronomy 11:14, Jeremiah 3:3, Joel 2:23 and Hosea 6:3

God is now unfolding Revelation’s mysterious story because the time of fulfillment has come.  Jesus is now selecting and preparing those who will constitute the 144,000 from among those who understand Revelation’s story.  These in turn, will explain to the world the actions of Jesus when he opens the fourth seal.

As people hear the gospel message, many will see its harmony and through faith, accept its truthfulness.  Some will join the Revelation movement and become part of the first remnant.  In effect, the first remnant is a support group for the 144,000.  When the trumpets begin to sound, the combined army of the 144,000 and the first remnant are prepared for their work.  They fearlessly march into Babylon to gather the rest of God’s people who haven’t heard the everlasting gospel!  Jesus calls to those in Babylon, ‘Come out of her, (Babylon) my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.”  Revelation 18:4,5 the gathering of the final harvest consists of three steps:

  1. The selection and sealing of the 144,000
  2. The gathering of an early remnant to support the 144,000
  3. The gathering of the latter remnant out of Babylon

The close of mercy

Jesus does not sneak upon people and close the door of mercy without warning.  On the other hand, the devil delights to snuff out life and thus abruptly end their opportunity to receive salvation.  The apostle Paul understood this quite clearly.  He said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts!”  Hebrews 4:7 Jesus is tenderly calling.  He is about to conclude His work in the heavenly sanctuary. Are you ready to live by faith?  Are you obedient to His call?  If you are, you can be one of the early remnants.  This opportunity comes as a result of receiving the gospel!

The closing of mercy during the time period of the trumpets consists of four steps.  They are:

1.      Each person on earth must hear the everlasting gospel

2.      Each person will be required to make a decision about the gospel

3.      Each person is tested on the decision

4.      Each person is sealed in his or her decision

Mercy closes for an individual as the four steps occur.  Since people in different lands hear the warning message of Revelation at different times during the trumpets, the sealing of some occurs before others during the judgment of the living.  When all have heard the final invitation, made in their decision and are sealed in their decision, probation is ended.  The Ancient of Days then dismisses the court.

The proclamation

From our study on the trumpets, we learned that corporate probation ends with the throwing down of the censer.  The sins of the earth have reached a point of no return.  The judgment review of the books of heaven is completed at this time and the judgment of the living is necessary.  This means that each person will now be judged.  In other words, the trumpet time period is the “hour of God’s judgment.”  It is a time of judgment for the living and the 7th trumpet marks the end of the judgment process.  Notice how John describes the close of mercy in Revelation 14:14-20:  “I looked, and they’re before

Me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of a man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’  So he that was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle.  Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the alter and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.’ The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.  They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia (180 miles).”  Several points need to be made from these verses.

  1. There are two gatherings

Jesus, the Son of Man, is seated on the white cloud and is told by the angel coming from the temple that the time for harvest has come.  The action of swinging the sickle over the earth symbolizes the gathering of God’s children into safety.  Everyone has made his or her decision, so the harvest is ripe, and mercy is ended.

Later, another angel comes from the temple with a sharp sickle and is told to gather the wicked and put them into the winepress of God’s wrath.  This action symbolizes the gathering or bundling of the wicked to receive the wrath of God – the seven last plagues

(Note:  John comments that the amount of wicked people (grapes) thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath is incredible!  Remember the third angel’s message mentions the winepress.)

Compare these Revelation 14:14-20 with Matthew 13:24-43.  In Matthew 13, Jesus told a parable of a man who sowed good seed in his field, but the man’s enemy sowed weeds to ruin his crop.  The man’s servants asked if they should pull up the weeds, but the owner said, “No.  Because while you are pulling up the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.  Let them grow together until the harvest.  At that time I will tell the harvesters:  First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”  Matthew 13:29,30

At first, the parable in Matthew may appear just the opposite of John’s account from Revelation because the wicked are first bundled together and the wheat is gathered in the barn.  The problem, though, is quite simple.  The good and the bad grow together until the time of the harvest.  The wicked will be gathered together or bundled first.  The confederation of Babylon happens first!  The coalition or global union of the world literally happens before the wheat is gathered into “the barn: at the close of probation.

The Father holds the door of mercy open as long as there is one person who has not heard the invitation.  Remember, Jesus came to save to the utmost.  This is the mystery of God.  No one will perish without first having an opportunity to be saved.  The gospel offers salvation full and free to those willing to live by faith!  It is because everyone has made his or her decision that Jesus is told to swing his sickle over the earth.  The harvest is ripe and ready for the picking.  The wheat has been gathered in and the door of mercy is closed.

Then an angel gathers the wicked that have been bundled together by receiving the mark of the beast.  These have refused the gospel invitation.  Even worse, these have allied themselves with Satan to destroy God’s people and this makes God angry.  Therefore, He visits them in wrath without mercy to avenge the cruel suffering inflicted upon His innocent children.

  1. Jesus doesn’t know when probation is to close

Jesus is told when to close probation by the angel coming from the heavenly temple.  The decision to close probation is not made by Jesus.  The Father decides when enough is enough!  Notice what Jesus said about this:  “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.  That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.  Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”  Matthew 24:36-41 These verses bring out two points we must understand:

    1. Only the Father knows when mercy ends.  Some believe this applies to the second coming, but a close investigation shows this is not possible.  The key to understanding these verses is found in a comparison with Noah’s experience.  Jesus said that in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking and marrying.  Nothing is inherently wrong with any of these things if we put God first in our lives.  Noah preached of the coming flood for 120 years and the people were well aware of Noah and his message.  They also saw the giant boat.  What they didn’t know about was the close of mercy!  The day Noah entered the ark the door was closed.  The closing of the ark’s door sealed 8 people inside and the world outside. The closing of the door of mercy in heaven is the issue – this is the moment in time that matters most.
    2. Matthew clearly points out that men and women can work side by side, yet when the door of mercy closes in heaven, one will be found safe inside and the other locked outside forever.  The most serious moment in all of Revelation is found in Revelation 14: 14-16.  This, as far as salvation is concerned, is the end.  When Jesus comes in the clouds of glory, he brings His reward with him for the eternal reward of each person has already been decided!  See Revelation 22:12.

The seventh trumpet reviewed

It might be helpful to refresh our minds with the contents of the 7th trumpet to make sure all the elements of the close of probation come into focus.  At this point in time, Satan is at maximum power. He appeared on earth during the 5th trumpet and deceived many, and during the 6th trumpet, he takes control of the world through force. The effectiveness of the Bible and the Holy Spirit is either destroyed by the dazzling miracles of Satan or the threat of death and everyone upon earth has made their decision.  John writes, “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever’

And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God:  saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.  The nations were angry; and your wrath has come.  The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great – and for destroying those who destroy the earth.’


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