By: Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
Iniquity will Abound—so will Grace!
The Lord Jesus Christ indicated in His mount Olivet Prophecy that the last days immediately preceding His return would be marked by widespread lawlessness (apostasy from the truth), in that “iniquity shall abound” (Matt. 24:11-12).
Yet in these same last days of apostasy, He declared that “he that shall endure unto the end shall be saved” (v. 13).
Truth will not be extinguished outright. There will be a few torch-bearers of God’s truth in this end time, but let those torch-bearers beware! In every age and generation, Satan will have his majority (see John 3:19; 1 John 5:19), who will try to “cut off” the few who hold onto the truth—God’s “hidden ones” (Ps. 83:3-4).
It was so in the days of widespread apostasy in ancient Israel. During the reign of apostate King Ahab and his wife Jezebel (1 Kings 16:29-33), Elijah, God’s true prophet, cried out, “Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged [torn] down Thine altars, and I am left alone, and they seek my life” (Rom. 11:3/1 Kings 19:10, cp 18:4).
Elijah certainly thought he was the lone keeper of God’s truth until the LORD answered him, “I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal” (Rom. 11:4/1 Kings 19:18).
In verses 5 and 6, the apostle Paul remarks: “Even so then at THIS PRESENT TIME [of the end] also there is a REMNANT according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (capitals mine).
Chosen and Kept by Grace—the Way of the New Covenant
Halleluiah! At this very time of the end, there’s a remnant of true believers chosen by grace to do God’s will (equivalent to ‘not bowing the knee to Baal’), but not by human effort (“works”). “Otherwise grace is no more grace”! The grace that chooses us is the same grace that enables us to obey God faithfully. The apostle Paul exclaimed joyfully: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me: (Php. 4:13).
That God Himself empowers us to obey, serve and love Him is the power and glory of the New Covenant God has made with believers. Under the Old Covenant, the greater responsibility seemed to lie with the people to keep the terms of the covenant (God being ever faithful by nature, He could never deny Himself, 2 Tim. 2:13). This was the main defect with the Old Covenant God made with Israel; the people failed to keep their side of the terms of the covenant (Heb. 8:7-9). Notice the covenant terminology in the following Old Testament scriptures:
“Now therefore, if YE will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine” (Ex. 19:5).
“Wherefore it shall come to pass, if YE hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which He sware unto thy fathers” (Deut. 7:12).
“And it shall come to pass, if YE shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 11:13).
In all three scriptures, the emphasis was on the human partners in the covenant. But way back in the days of Moses God saw just how ineffective this human-led obedience was (Deut. 29:4) and informed Moses of how He will correct the anomaly in days to come:
“And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.
“ And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all His commandments which I command thee this day” (Deut. 30:6, 8).
The LORD repeated this solemn promise to the prophet Jeremiah in Jer. 31:31-34:
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
“ Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
“ But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
“ And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more”. (Compare Heb. 8-10).
Now, the emphasis shifts from man to God! In Ezekiel 36 the LORD says, “A new heart will I give you, and a new Spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and CAUSE you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them” (vv. 26-27; see Acts 16:14-15).
In Jer. 32 He declares: “And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:
“And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I WILL PUT MY FEAR IN THEIR HEARTS, that they shall not depart from Me” (vv. 39-40).
This is the way to keep truth in this end time of widespread lawlessness; this is the way to the narrow gate and the narrow way (Matt. 7:13-14). God will give His people “one heart and one way(of life)” to live in godly fear (righteousness) by making “an everlasting covenant” with them whereby He will put His fear in their hearts! Thus God will guarantee that the covenant is unbreakable (or “everlasting”).
Simply put, obedience must be Spirit-generated in these “perilous times” of the end (2 Tim. 3:1-5) when many shall “give heed to seducing Spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1; cp Eph. 2:2-3). Indeed, as the apostle Pau says in Rom. 8:14, “As many as I led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” . In this New Testament time of spiritual worship led by God’s Spirit of grace, our ability to obey is from God Who “Has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:4-6 NIV).
However, we must cooperate with the Spirit. The Spirit and the bride say, “Whosever will let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). In Hebrews chapter 3 we read:
“Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith), To day if ye will hear his voice,
“Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (vv. 7-8).
The Son Now Speaks, Pay Greater Attention!
The One whose voice we must obey, as the Holy Spirit exhorts us, is the Lord Jesus Christ Who is “a Son over His own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6).
At the Transfiguration on the holy mount, God the Father testified of Him: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Matt. 17:5; cp 2 Pet. 1:16-18). Thus “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2).
This Son Who now speaks is not only above the prophets but also above the angels, for He is (Creator) God on His throne forever (vv. 5-13). For this reason, “we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard [from Him], lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels [who are below Him] was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; HOW SHALL WE ESCAPE, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Heb. 2:1-4).
The whole point of the scripture is that God at a definite point in time began to speak through His Son (see Mark 1:14-15) and that, that same message was repeated to others (“us”) by His immediate hearers (primarily the apostles) who had divine signs bearing witness to their message as being the same one Jesus spoke! In other words, Christ still speaks through His true ministers evidenced by the supernatural signs He gives to confirm the Word. (see Mark 16:20).
This is the divine message “we ought t to give the more earnest heed to” in this time of the end “lest at any time we should let them slip.” In 1 Cor. 15, the apostle Paul wrote:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
“ BY WHICH ALSO YE ARE SAVED, IF YE KEEP IN MEMORY WHAT I PREACHED UNTO YOU, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received [from the Lord through divine revelation, Gal. 1:11-12], how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (VV. 1-3).
The words of the Lord are not empty words; they contain the power to save, they contain salvation (John 6:63; Acts 11:14; Jam. 1:21; Prov. 4:13). If we continue and “endure” in these words to the end we shall be saved (see John 8:31-32).
In 2 Thessalonians chapter two where we are forewarned of the last Antichrist, “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” and “all deceivableness of unrighteousness” (vv. 9-10), we are admonished in verse 15-17 to hold onto the apostolic traditions handed down by Christ:
“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
“ Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given [us] everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,
“ Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work” (cp 3:6).
Coming hard after the divine warning against the “strong delusion” of the Antichrist, the exhortation is meant to impress on us the need to observe the traditions of Christ in the face of pressure from the Antichrist to abandon them for his godless, pagan traditions.
At the time of the last rule of the Antichrist, Christ will still not have changed, neither His doctrines and traditions. “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8). Hence” Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. ..” (v. 9).
So what were some of “the traditions” Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Thessalonians?
The seventh-day Sabbath was obviously one of them. Like Christ, it was customary for the apostle Paul to observe God’s Sabbath every seventh day (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2; cp 13:14, 42, 44, 16:13). For one year and six months in Corinth, Paul “reasoned every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4, 11).
In this end time, “the daughter of Zion” (the true Church) dwells spiritually with “the daughter of Babylon” (false, paganized Christianity), hence true believers must be on guard against the false teachings of Babylon (Zech. 2:7). Some of these false teachings include Sunday-worship (‘Sol Invictus’) and the celebration of Saturnalia (renamed ‘Christmas’) on 25th December. The prophet Jeremiah warns against this ancient cult of sun veneration on the sun-god’s supposed birthday on December 25 in Jer. 10:
“ Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them
“For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
“They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
“They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good” (vv. 2-5).
In the above-quoted scripture, the prophet unmistakably describes the Christmas tree decorated with tinsels and baubles. God says the ancient pagan practice of decorating the so-called ‘Christmas Tree’ is vain! Yet this is “highly esteemed among men” (Luke 16:15). The celebration of Christmas by ‘the Church’ WITHOUT A SINGLE SCRPTURAL PROOF is a classic example of the naked paganism in apostate Christianity, prophetically referred to as “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth” (Rev. 17:5). The way of “Babylon, the Great” is the way embraced by the majority who will not “endure the sound doctrine” (2 Tim 4:3-4). This is the “broad way” to destruction the Lord mentioned in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt.7:13).
Like Daniel and his three Hebrew friends, we must not follow the Babylonian crowd but stand up for the truth (Dan. 1:8, 3:1-12). “The mystery of iniquity [lawlessness] is already at work” (2 Thess. 2:7). So we must be careful what traditions we follow. The Son speaks now!
Choose to be Purified
The prophet Daniel accurately predicted our times: ‘Iniquity shall abound’ but some shall endure in the truth to the end and be saved. The question is, are we part of the lawless majority or righteous few who endure in the truth to the end?
The prophet wrote:
“[In the time of the end] Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand”(Dan. 12:9-10; cp 11:35).
Let’s choose to be purified. The God of all grace has taken it upon Himself to bring us to purity and holiness through the sanctifying work of His Spirit of fire:
“And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is My people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God” (Zech. 13:9).
Ours is just to surrender to Him. Through His Spirit of grace He will work on our inner nature to produce in us a life of obedience—which is purified from “all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (1 Pet. 1:22-23; 2 Cor. 7:1).
Stay Spiritually Alert!
In these “perilous times” of the end (2 Tim. 3), we must watch continually lest we end up spiritually naked (Rev. 16:15). However, if we keep the truth, we will walk with Him in white (Rev. 3:1-5).
Yet, it’s not by our might nor power; we must watch and pray always that we “may be accounted to escape all these things that shall come to pass [in the last days], and to STAND BEFORE the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36; see 1 John 2:28).
This is the time to “contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3) by persevering in righteousness and prayer. This is the time for God’s true ministers “to stand in the gap” so that the divine Hand of judgment is stayed; yes, now is the time to expose the false teachings of the false prophets so people will know God’s true Sabbath day and the difference between the clean and the unclean (Ez. 22:26, 30).
This is the time to pay “the more earnest heed” to the truth of Christ, our Saviour. We will only continue in Him “if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Heb. 3:14); His soul has no pleasure in the man (disciple or ‘believer’) who draws back (Heb. 10:38; Luke 9:62).
Therefore let us not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” Heb. 10:25-27).
So we must not draw back whereby we will make ourselves God’s “adversaries” doomed to judgment by fire! We must constantly look to Jesus, “the Author and Finisher of our Faith” (Heb. 12:2). His promise is true: He will keep us from falling from His life of holiness and truth in order to present us” faultless” before the Throne of Glory(Jude 1:24).
Such is the story of the remnant saints who “keep the commandments of God have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17). Those who do not draw back but persevere in the truth are granted the grace to stand “to the saving of the soul” (Heb. 10:39). Their very lives are the living testimony to this truth.
So don’t despair. If you endure to the end , the assurance from the Saviour is that your very good self will be saved: “… he that shall endure unto the end, the SAME shall be saved”. That is His word. Surely, He knows how to safeguard “His handiwork created for good works” in Him (Eph. 2:8-10). Glory be to His Name forever. Amen!