Prepare the Way of the Lord

Prepare The Way of the Lord

Malachi chapter three starts with a promise that God will send His messenger to prepare the way before Him. We know the messenger as John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus by teaching people repentance. However, this chapter and what follows doesn’t seem to be about Christ’s first coming — not that God can’t fulfill the same Scripture in more than one way. This chapter is about the end. The following chapter, chapter four, speaks of the end judgment, the fearful great day of the Lord. That chapter ends with a promise that God will send His messenger beforehand, saying He will send Elijah to prepare the way so that God won’t utterly destroy them.

That’s the state Israel is in, in danger of utter destruction. And remember, you are Israel. There is a nation Israel, but we are of the people Israel, God’s chosen children. You are grafted in when adopted into God’s family.

Back to chapter three, though. Verse five says, “Then I will draw near to you for judgment.” THEN. What comes first? Verse three: He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. (Malachi 3:3 ESV)

Before judgment, God will refine and purify His children so that their offerings will be righteous. And once our offerings are pleasing to Him, then He will come for judgment. He will prepare the way. He will prepare His people for His coming, for His judgment, by refining us. That’s what trials and troubles are for, what Tribulation is for, to prepare the way of the Lord, to bring down the mountains, lift up the valleys, make straight the crooked paths, and smooth out the rough parts.

It won’t be easy, though. Verse two: But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. (Malachi 3:2 ESV)

Yet, we must endure. It is he who endures to the end that will be saved. But since He is doing the work of preparing us for His determined purposes, we can trust Him to sustain us through and only refine us as we need refining. God does not afflict willingly (Lamentations 3:33). He doesn’t want to harm anyone.  But because He loves us, He will give us what we need.

When God judges the earth, He will give people what they deserve. We want to be safely at His side at that point. We don’t want to get what we deserve. His mercy and grace says that by the blood of Jesus we don’t have to get what we deserve, hell, but we can live in His glorious presence forever. However, that glorious presence is HOLY and we must be holy and set apart to Him to dwell in His presence. That’s where the refiner’s fire comes in. We submit ourselves to God’s altar of Holy Fire to consecrate us, burn away the dross, what’s not of Him, until our hearts are pure before Him. It’s the pure in heart that shall see God.

But there’s another good promise apart from just surviving judgment and the great day of the Lord. When the way is prepared, the Lord whom we seek “will suddenly come to His temple.” It comes with the additional reassurance, “Behold, He is coming.”

We are God’s temple. I pray that He will come in His temple, His people, before He comes for them. We need the fullness of His life and all His promises being fulfilled in us to stand through the tribulation, to go through as overcomers, for our lives to be the righteous pleasing offerings that He desires.

Worst Case Scenario

Here’s what I see as America’s worst-case scenario.

America misses the tribulation.

How could that be a bad thing? Tribulation is a gift from God. Paul preached, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22 ESV) Tribulations are part of our refining process, shining us up so that we are ready to be received as the spotless bride. Our adornment as the bride of Christ is our righteous acts (Rev. 19:8). That’s where our beauty comes from. Tribulation is the fire that burns away what’s not of God so that only truth and righteousness remain. Missing the tribulation would mean God was done with America. What a fearful thought.

It reminds me of this parable. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’And he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, leave it alone for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” (Luke 13:7-9 NASB 1995)

In America there was something called the First Great Awakening, a religious revival. It was happening around 1750. The Second Great Awakening was happening around 1800. Guess when the Third Great Awakening was happening. It was around the 1850s. Do you see the pattern? There was another revival around 1900. What was happening around 1950? Another revival? You bet. Then comes 2000….crickets.

What happens after that? 2001…ring a bell? How about September 11, 2001?

We missed the revival and instead got a warning. There was hope that it would spark a revival, but it didn’t come. We went all in on terrorists instead of going all in on God. Christians whooped and cheered for the death of Osama Bin Laden instead of weeping over another lost soul.

And what if America has lost her chance? What if her window of revival has closed? What if an end-times billion-soul revival takes place and America misses it? What if Roe vs. Wade is overturned and there is a resurgence of some semblance of conservative Christian values, and it’s mistaken for revival when it’s just a distraction that keeps people from real transformation?

Of course, there are believers in America who are ready to go through tribulation for the sake of the call of Christ. Their persecution will come from the unsaved church. And in this worse-case end-times scenario, America is completely destroyed as part of Babylon the Great and the lukewarm with her, while the faithful few are celebrating at their wedding feast. 

Christ, Himself, Will Be Our Shepherd

Before the church heads into the tribulation, the Lord will prepare it. In fact the Lord will reestablish Himself as the head of the Church. The church today is a business, an organization with a top-down structure. But the problem is Jesus isn’t at the head of it. In Ezekiel 34 we read of God’s pronouncement of judgment against leaders who are not caring for God’s people but were only truly caring for themselves, then also of God’s promise to place his shepherd over his people.

7 ” ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD : 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD : 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them…22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.

This uniting of the one, true Church, with Christ as the head is something I long for. And it will come because Christ will lead His Church through the tribulation. We will not go scattered and alone. He will lead His people safely through. That doesn’t mean there will be no martyrdom. It means our lives cannot be taken from us, but God could call us to give up our lives as Christ and the apostles did. Read this vision of what is to take place as the church/Church heads toward the tribulation.

RETAKING the SHIP
-Bryan Hupperts.

I dreamed I was aboard a luxury liner, the good ship Christendom,
converted curiously enough from a battleship, cruising blissfully
through a lazy blue ocean. The cruise ads had promised clear
skies, a great time, fun entertainment with some of the greatest
speakers and singers of our time, and feast upon feast of a vast
array of culinary delicacies from around the globe.

For some odd reason I had the impression this was supposed to
be a family cruise but the wealthiest were atop in the luxury suites,
quite isolated and protected from the rest of us who were secured
in various levels of the ship each according to our rank of importance
and wealth. Somehow, it didn’t feel right.

Aside from a growing uneasiness that something wasn’t quite right
on this vast cruise ship, I was enjoying myself listening to great
teachers and wonderful singers all the while surrounded by a few
close friends.

One night, as I climbed into my bunk, I felt the ship begin to rock.
It was a gentle rocking but soon the ship was tossing and heaving
like a fish needing air. People were being thrown out of their bunks
and began scrambling to get to the decks. Were we sinking?

I staggered like a drunken man up the stairs to see a sight
unthinkable. The deck was rocking violently and everything that
could be shaken was being shaken. Baggage and luxuries were
being thrown overboard by the cresting of the waves and it seemed
the ship would split into timbers. And through the swirling fog I
saw what looked like another ship: a pirate ship?

We were being boarded and overtaken. It happened so fast there
was almost no resistance. Some from the upper decks were
shouting, “You cannot do this. We are the lords of this voyage.”
And a shrouded figure I took for the Captain of the attacking vessel
stepped out of the shadows and replied simply; “It is not to be so
among you for there is only one Lord.”

Within a few minutes many of the passengers and crew were in
chains for not having “lawfully boarded,” while the rest of us were
ordered to different decks. The whole ship was in ordered turmoil
as everyone aboard was assigned a new place. A man named
Mr. Prophet, who had been in irons for most of the voyage for
“Speaking Mutiny” against the now deposed former Captain who
ironically wore his same chains, was summarily released and
placed into the watchtower to be the eyes of the ship.

A woman named Mrs. Intercessor who was serving in the galley
as a lowly cook was sent to the deepest hole in the ship. I
wondered about her punishment and asked one of the shining
soldiers why this was so. He smiled and said, “She is close to
the Captain’s heart and needs the silence to be alone with him to
hear his heart clearly. She has cried out to be released into this
‘punishment’ for many years. It is a station of great honor.”

Others tried to use their former rank to demand an audience with
the Captain but he ignored their swagger and boasts seeming
instead drawn to the meek and lowly of heart, giving no regard to
a person’s rank or status.

The ship’s powerful self-propelling engines were unbolted and
dropped like useless, dead weights into the forgetfulness of the
ocean! A mast went up and in a moment, she was transformed
from running under her own power back into a sailing ship. Her
ancient armory that had been locked tight was opened anew and
her weapons were remounted transforming her into both a sailing
ship and a warship. Many of the singers quit entertaining and
began to offer up worship on the warship. An order was given to
the speakers, “Quit merely speaking and teach by example. To
your labor stations!”

Some who had beaten their fellow passengers during the voyage
were publicly humiliated as a quick trial took place. Those who
had abused their fellow passengers were allowed to remain on
the ship and surprisingly were treated as guests of the Captain,
but even what they had was taken away from them. There was a
fast redistribution of wealth and duty as everyone was released
into a place that somehow suddenly felt “right.” We were no more
divided into passengers and crew, but all simply crewmembers,
fellow shipmates united under one Captain.

The Captain assembled the whole ship’s company and, while
holding a bottle of new wine in his hand, spoke quickly. “I come
to liberate, not enslave! I have come to reclaim what is mine by
birthright. I have retaken this ship that the pirates stole from me.
She is no more christened The Christendom, but her true name,
the good ship Salvation!”

He broke the bottle of new wine over her bow. “All who will may
board her freely for the price to sail has been paid in full. We set
sail for my Father’s kingdom. Rebels and mutineers, beware! Your
day of retribution draws swiftly near. Behold, I come quickly!”

A cheer went up from the crew as the sails were hoisted and a
sudden wind from the deepest Heaven began to blow, propelling
her towards an unseen land. My last sight was seeing her proper
Captain at the wheel with his joyous face yet set like flint for the
voyage to come. I sensed troubled waters of tribulation brewing
and knew that only with the true Captain at the helm would we
safely reach our destination.

Bryan Hupperts
© 2004 SheepTrax Media