I plan on preaching for a while on the subject of Last Day Events. I began last time by speaking about the last message that is to be proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, as spoken of by John in Revelation 14. Three angels, bearing a message said to be the Everlasting Gospel. Jesus had said, Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
The day will come when that work has been accomplished, when all have heard the Gospel, and all have decided whether to believe the Good News or not.
Up to that point, the destiny of each individual hangs in the balance. Each person has the time to consider the claim of God on his life. Each person is offered the gift of eternal life, freely, and without price.
The final message, referred to in Scripture as the Loud Cry, will go forth with the power of the Holy Spirit. It will go to all the world. All will decide.
And then, probation will close. And the heavenly decree will be pronounced as stated in Rev. 22:11, 12
11He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
Once this point is past, we enter the period of the Time of Trouble, what some call the tribulation. The righteous will be persecuted, while the seven last plagues will be poured out upon the wicked.
Jesus says in Revelation 22:12, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be”
So consider this. If at his coming Jesus brings his reward; if he then raises the righteous dead, delivers the righteous from their persecutors, and executes judgment on the wicked, then clearly he has already made the decision as to the eternal fate of each person. The judgment has met. The books have been opened. All cases have been argued. Sentence has been passed. He comes to execute judgment, not to hear evidence.
And between the close of probation and his coming with his reward there is a period of time. We don’t know how long it will be. We know only that it will be a time of trouble such as never was.
I’ll talk about the time of trouble another time. Today, I want to focus on the close of probation.
And I’d like to jump from Revelation back to Genesis. Turn in y our Bible to Genesis chapter 6. We read how the world quickly grew evil. And God decreed a time of probation for humanity.
Genesis 6 3And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
120 years. That’s how long God decreed that man would have until the Flood. That’s how long Noah built the ark, and warned the world. They were given time to repent. God had great patience with them. The people of the world laughed. They saw the long delay as a sign that Noah was crazy. That this flood was a figment of his imagination. That’s what some people think today when we warn of the nearness of Christ’s coming. As Peter said, in 2 Peter 3:3ff
3Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
But the day came when the warning ceased to sound. The day came when God called Noah to enter the ark. Gen. 7:1-5,10
1And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation. 2Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. 3Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. 4For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. 5And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him.
And then, verse 10:
10And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.
Have you ever noticed this part of the story? The Lord ordered them into the ark, and then, verse 16, “the Lord shut them in.” And once he did, they sat there for seven days before the rain came, before the fountains of the deep were broken up. Probation had closed. No longer could they leave. No longer could any get in. Their fates were sealed. Now they waited for the execution of the judgment.
They sat in the ark, with the sounds of the animals inside and the jeers of the crowd outside. What was going on in their minds? Did they doubt? Did they fear? Did they question? We don’t know. But even if they did, it didn’t matter. Their fate was sealed.
We can see the story of Lot as offering a similar example. We read about it in Genesis 19. Two angels came to Sodom to warn Lot of the coming judgment. Lot tried to warn his sons-in-law. There was a time when they could have heeded the warning, but once Lot and his family left with the angels, it was over. Probation had closed. There was now a space in which they were taken to shelter before the judgment was poured out upon the city.
We can see the same thing in the parable of the ten virgins in Matt. 25:1-13. The warning message came, “Behold the bridegroom cometh! Go ye out to meet him!” Those who were ready went in; those who were not scrambled to get oil. And while the foolish were out running around, the wise went in, and the door was shut. The foolish cried, “Open for us!” But the time had passed.
We are in the last days of humanity’s probation. Now the Gospel message is going out to the whole world. Going out in more ways and to more places today than ever in the past 2000 years. As it goes out, Jesus continues his ministry of intercession as our high priest in the heavenly sanctuary. He is pleading his blood before the Father on behalf of the whole world. He takes his time, for as Peter said, he “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
He pleads not only for us, but for the whole world. His mediation protects the world from disaster, as the message goes forth that will seal the saints.
Revelation 7:1ff And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. 2And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, 3Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
But decisions will be made by all. The saints will be sealed. Probation will close, and after that, no one will change their minds.
Two Scriptures help us understand what happens at that point. First, Revelation 8.
1And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. 2And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. 3And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. 6And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
The work of intercession is ended. The prayers of the saints have been offered up, their prayers for vengeance, and now the censer is cast to the earth. No longer do the four angels hold back the winds—now God’s judgments are hurled at the earth in all their fury. Seven angels blow seven trumpets—the seven last plagues, poured out upon those who have rejected God’s mercy.
Our pioneers saw in Isaiah 59 a representation of this time:
1Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. 3For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. 4None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. 5They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. 6Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. 7Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. 8The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace. 9Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. 10We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men. 11We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. 12For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. 15Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. 16And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. 17For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. 18According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence. 19So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. 20And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.
The prophet sees the land awash in sin. And there is no intercessor pleading now for those who cling to their sins. And the Lord puts on garments of vengeance, and executes his judgment upon the evil.
This is what will happen at the close of probation. Jesus’ intercession will cease. He will take off his priestly garments and put on his kingly garments, his garments of vengeance. There will no longer be an intercessor in the heavenly sanctuary—that doesn’t mean God will abandon his people, or that they are on their own—not at all. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” is his promise. Rather, it means simply that there is no one to hold back the judgment that is to be poured out upon the earth. And the plagues will fall.
That day is coming. But we aren’t there yet.
Jesus still pleads. He still holds back the winds. The gospel still goes forward. The door is still open.
And so, in the words of Paul to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 6:
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
And again, Hebrews 3, starting with verse 7:
7Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
18And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Paul says we have a warning in Scripture. The children of Israel. For forty years God pleaded with them—but they would not go into the land promised to them. They clung to their sins. They yearned for their old life in Egypt. They couldn’t put away the thought of their old luxuries. God continued to plead with them, but they refused to believe.
And Paul says to the Hebrews. “Listen. Don’t be like them. Heed the warning. Encourage each other every day that can be called “today,” claim the promise. “Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Look at your life. Look at the secret things in your heart. Look at your priorities. Look at the sins you cling to. Don’t let them keep you out of the kingdom. Don’t let them blind you from seeing what Christ calls you to. Turn from them today. Heed his promise today. Accept the gospel today.