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According to the prophet Isaiah, two kinds of churches will exist in the last days. And I believe these two types of churches are already in existence. We do not have to speculate about what they will be like - because Isaiah gives us a very clear, prophetic description of both.
Isaiah 4 opens with a concise and tragic description of what I call "the church of forgiveness only":
"And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach" (Isaiah 4:1).
This is one of the most misunderstood verses in all the Bible. Some commentators suggest this happened during the reign of King Ahaz, when enemy armies came in and slew 120,000 men. But that is only speculation. There is no evidence that this verse has ever been fulfilled at any time in history. There is nothing to suggest that, even in Ahaz' time, seven women "took hold of one man."
Then the Holy Spirit spoke something to me concerning this passage. To my knowledge, you won't find what I have to say in any commentary. Yet, I see this entire chapter in Isaiah as one of the clearest, most unmistakable prophecies about how the church will look just prior to the coming of the Lord.
Like many Christians, I believe without a doubt we are living in the last days. Jesus' life, death and resurrection instituted the beginning of this period. On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and said,
"...this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass that in the last days, saith God, I shall pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh..." (Acts 2:17).
Peter was saying, "These are the last days. God's outpoured Spirit is proof of it!"
Likewise, the apostle Paul wrote,
"Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Paul knew he was living in the last days. And to me, there is no question that we are living in the very last of the last days!
In Revelation 1, John sees Jesus standing in the midst of seven golden candlesticks:
"...and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace..." (Revelation 1:14-15).
John was smitten by this frightful sight - and he fell on his face in fear! Remember, this was the same John who once leaned his head on Jesus' bosom. And now, as he sees the Lord in this state, he is utterly stricken.
Scripture makes it very clear that these seven candlesticks represent seven churches - that is, the entire religious body of believers in the last days, all that we call "the church." And Jesus walks among these seven candlesticks, His piercing eyes searching the seven churches.
Scripture Always Refers to
The Church in the Feminine Gender,
in Many Cases As a Bride.
The seven would-be brides Isaiah mentions are clearly a type of the characteristics of many in the last-days' church.
Dispensationalists would say the seven churches of Revelation represent seven church ages. I am saying that I believe you will find the characteristics of all seven churches in all churches through the ages. Even in "blessed" churches that are complimented by the Lord - such as are of the spirit of Smyrna or Philadelphia - you will find mixture and characteristics that God hates.
These seven would-be brides are seeking to lay hold of one man, whom I take to be Christ. Yet these brides are not interested in loving Him. On the contrary, they have only one thing on their minds - the removal of their reproach!
"...We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach" (verse 1).
I see here seven women approaching a man and saying, "You don't have to provide food for us. We'll take care of our own bread. And you don't have to provide any clothes for us. We'll provide our own robes."
You don't have to be very deep spiritually to see the significance here. After all, "...sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34) - reproach of guilt! Sure, these women want to be the bride of Christ - but only on their own terms. They want an arrangement without intimacy, love or devotion.
The number seven is used in regard to these brides to remind us that in every church system there are such people. They attempt to "take hold of one man" - Christ - only to get relief from the guilt and condemnation of their sin. They don't want intimacy with Him. They want nothing more than forgiveness - to have the reproach of sin removed. I call this "the church of forgiveness only."
Please understand - I believe in justification by faith. It is by faith alone in Jesus Christ that we are saved. We are justified by His finished work on the Cross. And because of this we can live without guilt, fear or condemnation. This is the great meaning of the gospel.
But if that is all you ever want of Jesus - if you don't want to be intimate with Him, to live on Him as the bread from heaven, and to come under His fiery gaze, which searches and convicts - then being forgiven is your entire focus!
I was in a town some time ago to speak at a meeting, and I passed a big amphitheater advertising a Christian rock concert. I stopped to watch the kids set up their equipment for the show. Unbelievably, some of them wore T-shirts with a message that included a four-letter word. It read: "-- Guilt!"
I can't even quote the word to you here - and these were so-called Christians. Apparently, all they wanted was to get rid of guilt!
Many pastors and evangelists today preach a "forgiveness only" message - and that's all they preach! They cry, "Come, accept Jesus and enjoy a life without guilt, fear or condemnation. Just believe and confess, and you will be His bride. You can walk your own walk and talk your own talk!"
I do not believe we are saved by the law - but the law has a purpose. It is a mirror that holds up before us the commands and demands of God. And when we see we can't fulfill those commands, we are driven to Jesus. But God help us if we don't hear this kind of preaching!
Many churches have replaced the Word with ten-minute skits that contain no convicting gospel at all. There is no preaching of holiness, no word of separation from the world, nothing about sanctification or dealing with besetting sins. Yet the leaders defend themselves by saying, "People don't want to hear a hard gospel. We're simply giving them what they need to cope in these troubled times."
Indeed, the Bible says of those who attend such churches,
"...after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:3).
These churchgoers are saying, "You don't have to feed us, Jesus. We can provide our own bread. We have our own gospel!"
All across America churches are feeding their sheep the same pabulum - a cotton-candy, "feel-good" gospel. These places are packed with thousands who have merely repeated a sinner's prayer, saying, "I believe!" But the Bible says even the demons believe - and they tremble at the very thought of God!
Few of these people have been provoked to deny self and embrace the Cross -to die to all self and ungodliness. They don't want the burden of the Lord. They don't weep over the sins of Zion. They don't feel God's heartbrokenness over the wickedness and compromise in these last days.
Instead, they say, "...We will eat our own bread..." (Isaiah 4:1). They don't want the bread that comes down from heaven - that is, Jesus Christ crucified, resurrected and seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the bread of separation - of holiness, purity, self-denial. But these say, "We will provide our own bread" - usually a gospel of permissive love, with no reproof, no smiting conviction.
Beloved, the Bible says their bread is defiled! The prophet Hosea called it
"...the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted: for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the Lord" (Hosea 9:4).
Yet the true house of God - the holy remnant church - will have nothing to do with this manmade bread. They know that most of it is pop psychology, with a few verses of Scripture sprinkled in to make it sound religious. It sounds good - but leaves the sheep starving!
"...We will...wear our own apparel..." (Isaiah 4:1).
The "church of forgiveness only" says, "Listen, Lord, you don't have to provide us with clothes. We'll make our own and clothe ourselves."
There are no robes of righteousness for this people - no holiness preaching, no reproof, nothing "negative." There is no separation from the world, no forsaking of all others, no cleaving to their husband. Instead, they say, "We will dress as we please!"
These would-be brides have no desire to submit to the authority of a husband. They don't want to live under the same roof with him. Nor are they interested in his needs. They don't want to know his heart or care about his concerns. They are totally consumed with self - with having their reproach removed!
So they have as little contact with him as possible - maybe one hour a week. Is there any intimacy, love, companionship, submission in this arrangement? No! Is there any clinging to Him? No! Do they desire to spend hours in His presence - in secret, sharing His very heart? No - they spend most of their time with "other loves," such as sports, TV, theater, pleasures of all kinds. Without exception, such Christians always turn to a self-centered gospel.
A man who was visiting our church recently from a large southern city approached me before one of our services. He said, "Brother David, I just had to leave my church. We sent a whole delegation across the country to a congregation where a 'great revival' was supposedly taking place. Everyone came back excited about it all - but something didn't sit right in my spirit. I didn't feel I could be a part of this 'new thing.' So I had to leave.
"Tell me - what is happening to our church? Where is the discernment? Why isn't our pastor intimate with Jesus? Why doesn't anyone seem to know God's heart? Why this sudden introduction of an 'imported' revival?"
Indeed, it is out of intimacy with Jesus that we receive discernment, direction, a knowing of what is right and wrong, of what is holy and pure. Intimacy with Christ gives us a firmness wherein we are not tossed to and fro by every wind and wave of doctrine. Yet right now there is such foolishness going on, with no discernment at all. It is manmade bread - it is not of God - and it grieves His heart!
Now, let me move on to the other church of which Isaiah speaks:
The Next Church Isaiah Saw Emerging
in the Last Days Is Called
the Church Of God's Glory!
"In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel" (Isaiah 4:2).
Who is the branch being spoken of here? All through the Old Testament, the branch that is mentioned as coming forth is none other than Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.
According to Isaiah, there will be a church to whom He will appear beautiful and glorious, excellent and comely. Their motive toward Him will not be one of simply having a reproach removed. No - they will be passionately in love with a Man whom they see as desirous, glorious, excellent!
Right now, there is on the earth a remnant church that desires nothing but Christ. This remnant is but a small portion, perhaps a tenth, of what we think of as the church. I don't believe that the church which will please God in these last days has to be one of multiple thousands of believers. On the contrary, much of what we see taking place in megachurches today does not represent God's heart at all.
No - the heart of the Lord is in those churches where Jesus is the center of attraction - where everything is based upon the preaching of the Cross and built around the presence and character of Christ. God's heart is revealed to those churches that are in love with His Son - where people focus their all on Him!
These are the ones Isaiah refers to as being "...escaped of Israel" (same verse). He says of them:
"When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (verse 4).
God has sent His Spirit into the world in these last days to reprove of sin and ungodliness. Many who hear His burning, judging, convicting Word will flee into Babylon - that is, into worldliness - and will be carried away into bondage.
Only a remnant will remain. And Isaiah is saying here that God will bring these few through "...the spirit of judgment, and...the spirit of burning" (same verse).
Indeed, the last-day church that will be filled with God's glory is more than just a forgiven church. It is a holy church - one that has been purged by the consuming fire of God's convicting Word. Holiness and purity characterize its people. Isaiah adds,
"...left in Zion...shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem" (verse 3).
You may say, "But, Brother Dave, it's clear this refers only to ancient Israel. Jerusalem and Zion are named here - and that pinpoints this prophecy to the Jewish population of Jerusalem at a certain time in history."
No! It is much more than that. Consider what the Bible says elsewhere:
"But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all" (Galatians 4:26). "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels" (Hebrews 12:22).
There is a new, heavenly Jerusalem - a spiritual city that is the mother of all believers:
"...the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God..." (Revelation 3:12).
This is what the prophet Isaiah is talking about - a heavenly-minded remnant whom the Lord will bring through His consuming fire!
You see, when you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you are born into Zion. Your name is recorded there. And those who have fully given their heart to Jesus - who are intimate with Him and belong to Him - are known in Zion as sons and daughters of God.
The best evidence here that Isaiah is referring to the last-days' church is found in verse 5:
"And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence" (Isaiah 4:5).
Isaiah is predicting God will create a new pillar and cloud to cover His people!
Now, we know that when Isaiah prophesied this, the pillar and cloud in the wilderness had already passed away. Obviously, this was something that had yet to be created - a new thing!
The cloud has to do with direction and comfort - with preservation from all evil and terror, and with guidance. This means God's last-days, holy remnant people will have clear direction. They will not be confused. When everything around them is spinning in different directions and falling apart, they will have a cloud and a pillar of fire to lead them!
Israel had but one tabernacle - and they had one cloud and one pillar of fire. But today we all are tabernacles of the Holy Spirit - and God has provided a cloud and a pillar of fire for every one of us. Every individual - and every repentant, holy congregation - has the cloud of the Spirit to lead them by day and a pillar of Spirit-fire to lead them by night.
God is saying, in other words, "I'm going to see you through, no matter what your situation. Even in the worst storm of your life, you'll have clear direction from Me. I will give you a pillar of fire to lead you - as surely as I did Israel in the wilderness!"
Yet right now in America, there is a raging storm of confusion in the church. So many people are confused. There is little discernment - and yet there is much false doctrine, foolishness and flesh.
Our ministry receives calls and letters from people all over the country who say, "What's going on? I can't figure it out. Our pastor is bringing in strange teachings, and it's tearing our church in two. Is this of God or not? Please tell us. We don't know what to believe anymore!"
My son Gary, who pastors a church in Denver, called me recently. He said, "Dad, I went to a meeting recently where things just went crazy. It almost frightened the leaders. They had to get up and say, 'All right, let's bring this all back to Jesus.'
"At the beginning they'd said it was a move of the Holy Ghost. But then they had to say, 'Let's bring it all back to Jesus.' Well, where had they been, if they had to bring everything back to Jesus?"
Beloved, this kind of thing is frightening. The focus in that meeting never should have been anywhere but on Jesus!
Often people come to me and say, "Brother Wilkerson, you've got to go with us. A great revival has broken out in such-and-such a church. It's marvelous. People are falling down left and right."
Now, I'm not against manifestations. I worked for five years with Kathryn Kuhlman, and I saw people in her meetings fall under the power of the Holy Ghost in a way that was absolutely awesome. There was no manipulation involved; it was a genuine work of the Spirit.
But if people want to tell me a great move of God is going on somewhere today, my first question will be: "Is God's Word being preached there with consuming fire? Are people falling under conviction for sin? Is the cry of the people there for the purging of the spirit of this world?
"Is holiness the result? Is there a strong message of reproof? Does it drive people to Jesus? Does everything focus on Him? Is Christ the sum of it all? Is there a new compassion for lost souls? Are hardened sinners repenting?"
That is the work of the Holy Ghost! He comes to reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. So, if you're going to tell me the Holy Ghost has come down, then these things had better be happening. If not, then judge it for what it is - flesh!
The Holy Remnant Church Is
Led Completely By the Holy Spirit!
The Lord has a people in these confusing times who are not confused. They are so given to Jesus - so in love with Him, so open to the reproof of His Spirit, so separated from the wickedness of this age - that they know the ways and workings of the Holy Spirit. They know what is pure and holy, and what is fleshly and foolish. Wherever the cloud moves, they follow!
"...for upon all the glory shall be a defence" (verse 5).
The original Hebrew here reads: "Over all shall be a covering of glory." This means, in essence, "Over each of these remnant people, and all of these holy remnant assemblies, there will be a hiding place, a blanket, a covering. And that covering is the glory of God!"
You may remember from Exodus 40 that a cloud of glory covered the tabernacle in the wilderness:
"Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34-35).
Read also what happened in Solomon's tabernacle, when he dedicated the temple:
"Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house" (2 Chronicles 7:1-2).
Beloved, every time the tabernacle was in order - every time it was completed and prepared according to God's design - His glory came down and filled it.
Now, here in Isaiah 4, we are promised that in the last days the Lord will create a glory that covers His remnant church. The very glory of God is going to fill every heart and cover every house. We will worship under the canopy of God's glory!
What is this glory? It is none other than the manifested presence of Jesus Christ, God's Son! Jesus is the fullness of the Father's glory.
"In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious..." (Isaiah 4:2). "...his Son...being the brightness of his glory..." (Hebrews 1:2-3).
The glory can't get any brighter than Christ manifesting Himself to you!
The word manifested means "to lay hold of by the hand." In other words, when Jesus' presence fills a place, it is so real, so evident, that your spiritual hands can touch it, your spiritual eyes can see it. It is as real as the air you breathe!
The kind of revival I want to see is the kind where the presence of Jesus becomes so powerful and overwhelming - so beautiful and glorious - that the "fruit" (or, conversions) will be excellent! (see Isaiah 4:2). Already we've seen the beginnings of this in our services at Times Square Church - with people streaming forward, weeping and being broken before the Lord.
If people are going to fall down, I want to see them falling under the conviction of the Holy Ghost. And the vision I want them to receive is a renewed vision of Jesus. And the manifestation I want them to have is their rising from the floor as a new creature in Christ!
That's when people ought to be able to laugh. When the consuming fire has done its purging work, and all sin is gone, and there has been a heartrending - then we should be able to laugh all night long. Let the joy of the Lord come then!
I would not want to attend a church where the glory of God has departed. The psalmist testifies that when the ark was captured by the Philistines,
"(God) delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand" (Psalm 78:61).
When the priest Eli's daughter-in-law gave birth, her son was named Ichabod, meaning "...the glory [of the Lord] is departed..." (1 Samuel 4:21).
Our testimony should be, "If I can't have the presence of Jesus, I don't want to live. He has to be my guide, my cloud, my pillar of fire!"
Why Is the Glory of God So Important Today?
What Purpose Is the Glory Of His Presence?
The answer is found in Isaiah 4:
"And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain" (Isaiah 4:6).
First, the glory of God's presence will be our shelter from the heat. The Hebrew word for heat means "drought, desolation, barrenness." It is a type of God's judgment on an evil society.
In Revelation 16, the fourth angel of judgment is given power
"...to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God..." (Revelation 16:8-9).
Right now, God is turning up the heat. And it is going to get even hotter, with judgments on all sides. But the glory of God will be our cover!
"And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat..." (Isaiah 4:6).
We won't feel the heat! Instead we'll rest in the cool shadow of Jesus' wings.
Second, the glory of God is our defense, our covering:
"...and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain" (verse 6).
Already we are seeing the rain - not just of Holy Spirit outpourings, but of God's judgments. The storm clouds are gathering - but, thank God, there will be a covering over His holy remnant church!
Perhaps you are saying, "I have no 'glory church' I can attend. All I can find are man-centered churches. Where is my covering from the heat and storm?"
Your dwelling place is the glory of God in your own heart! If Jesus is present in you, manifesting Himself to you, then you are covered in full. If you turn your heart and eyes on Him - allowing God's Word to reprove, convict and correct you - He will manifest Himself to you. He has promised it!
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21).
God says, "I will be there with you. It doesn't matter how bad it gets - I'm going to see you through. I will never leave you nor forsake you!"
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