The 4th Great Awakening in American history is underway. There have been a number of words from recognized prophetic voices published in the past few weeks, and there is a compelling coincidence to their witness. We got the word ourselves when our prayer team made its monthly visit to the California State Capitol July 3. One of our members reported a vision in which the Lord showed him two piles of dry bones on the floor – reminiscent of the famous passage in Ezekiel 37 – and while he watched, the bones rose to form two skeletal bodies, one of them a man and the other a lion. Putting aside the natural skepticism of many of our readers about revelations from God in capitol hearing rooms – or anywhere else – let’s track with the internal logic of the vision. That too is supplied by God, but it is subject to rational critique.
The interpretation came to me instantaneously as the vision was described. The man represented Jesus Himself and the Lion of Judah. Their rise to incarnation was clearly about the promised Awakening, but the caveat is at least as important. Attention was drawn to the skeletal nature of these bodies–that is, to their lack of flesh, skin, hair, and organs. Clearly, the Awakening is in its most fragile infancy. The present outpouring of signs and wonders has been with us for some time; it does not constitute an Awakening by itself. And there is much more at stake here than whether a bunch of charismatic Christians get to raise hands and shout glory to the Lord. The call to the people of God to practice ongoing repentance – re-focus of our attention on God – is even more urgent than it has been the past several years.
There is a dark side to this season that also grows exponentially. Jesus said the last days – whatever their duration – would feature worldwide wars and rumors of wars, and we have armed conflict on the five heavily populated continents. We would see men calling evil good and good evil; look no further than the outpouring of sympathy for Hamas as it shoves women and children in front of its own missile batteries as human shielding. And we would see Christians hated by all for no other reason that that we bear the name of Christ; the legal assaults on American and European Christians in the name of political correctness pale next to the slaughter of the faithful in the Middle East, but the source is the same and the escalation as certain.
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Yet most of these so-called revelatory words are steeped in triumphalism. There is no acknowledgement of ongoing need for repentance. There is a childish obsession with the healings and the other goodies that are indeed part and parcel of any move of God in our midst, but which are anything but the whole package. Jesus was quite clear that as history winds down, there is going to be hell to pay as much as heaven to gain; nobody gets a free pass. Any alleged prophet who claims it is all coming up like roses for people of prayer is just as much a false prophet as the people who keep running up and down California claiming the drought is over (despite the reality that reservoirs are less than half full and snowpack almost non-existent.) So what is the reasonable (and at the same time faithful) approach? Just what it has always been.
John 8:1-11 is a story of authentic repentance. Pharisees who seemingly have nothing better to do on a weekday morning than look in someone’s bedroom window drag a woman caught in adultery before the Lord and ask permission to stone her. Jesus uses the Law accurately when he says only the sinless may cast the first stone. Only the woman actually repents – she steps across the line Jesus draws in the dust and remains by His side – while her accusers refuse to focus on Him and slink away in shame. It doesn’t matter who has done well or poorly; it matters only that His grace is sought and accepted by each and all.
Two apostles stand out for rejecting a portion of pre-resurrection revelation. Thomas is chronically convinced it will all end badly, despite what he has seen of Christ’s power to bless and heal. Yet he is loyal and devoted to the end, saying “Then let us all go and die with Him,” when Jesus determines to go to Jerusalem despite being warned against it. One might say Thomas faces the darkness while doubting the glory. Peter, on the other hand, is the first to confess Jesus as Son of God; he gets into trouble with the boss when he refuses to believe the Cross is coming. Jesus rebukes Peter but lets Thomas slide. Why is that?
Thomas’ rejection is wrong, but not problematic for his faith. He will hang in there with Jesus in the hard times – he always does – and when it turns out exponentially better than he can imagine, it is just that – exponentially better in the Kingdom. Peter’s rejection negatively impacts his faith; he is in for the wild ride, but the plummet of Good Friday can shock him right out of the Kingdom if he is totally unprepared. God wants us to enjoy the hurricane of signs, wonders, and decisions for Jesus – not to mention the grace that will flow in many directions through the culture shared by the awakened Church. But if we imagine the glory is all there is, we risk missing even that when the hurricane of hard times makes landfall.
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