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The Latter Days

John Collins10/21/2013

Video available here: http://youtu.be/EyRlS94ZLOg

Many prophets in the Old Testament spoke of the “latter days,” foretelling events that were to come far into the future as they rebuked Israel for falling into idolatry.  And as the prophets spoke in symbol, it is very easy to apply their prophecies to current events – any current event – that hold a grip of fear on the people.  God was proclaiming His coming judgment on Israel for abandoning the Old Covenant, and that judgment was death unless a Savior came to redeem them from their sin.  And while the signs of the times seem to be pointing to the “Last Days” as described in the Old Testament, we find that the “latter days” spoken by the prophets are not what we would call the “End of Days.”  In fact, the “latter days” that were prophesied proclaim a much, much different time and place.

I was amazed as the missionaries from our new church returned from overseas, describing each and every person that they shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It was awe-inspiring to hear stories of those in other nations who had never heard of Christ, and those who never knew that a Savior died for their sins on the cross.  Some even thought that they knew Jesus, but to them, Christ was just another god that they worshipped along with Mohammed, Buddha, or some other prophet, taking the approach that belief in their mixture of prophets was required to know “god.”  The different version of god that they believed was not the One True God that told us not to worship other gods, and the version of Jesus that they believed was not the Son of God that would change a heart to desire to leave those other gods.

I thought about the many in other parts of the world that are in this condition; those that think they have accepted Christ, but simply placed Him on a shelf with several other gods.  Many have taken the Charismatic-style over-spiritualization of any blessing that God has given us, and mistake our God for nothing more than a god of blessing.  This god of blessing, they believe, can bring them healing, or change their paths in life if they pray in his name – but it is simply one in a line of many other gods that have been misrepresented in the same way.  To them, Christ is just another way to heal the body without medicine, or a way to make rain fall for the withering crops. 

In many ways, the Divine Healing movement is responsible for this.  The Voice of Healing magazine depicts hundreds of men and their supernatural stories with full intentions of bringing amazement.  These men travelled around the world, spreading the “gospel of healing” to the crowds, and the natives of each country were fully accepting as the movement started.  We find several ministers, preaching hand-in-hand in the cities throughout South America, South Africa, India, and more, each fully supporting each other as their movement seemed to be blessed.

But when the movement started to fizzle, it seemed as though the crowds were only interested in the ministers who could bring the most amazement.  Men who once preached together in unity began to find ways to spiritualize more and more stories, and tried to squeeze blessings from the Hand of God where there was no blessing to be found.  As the natives realized that these “blessings” in the form of “healing” began to fade, and because they were looking for a “god of healing,” they turned to other gods for support.  They never knew the real Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was never taught.  Instead, a different “gospel” was spread, one that was focused on healing of the body rather than Christ’s words that these mortal bodies are fading for a new body that will never fade.

William Branham’s gospel was aligned with this movement, and specifically aligned with the scriptures from the Old Testament that are describing the “latter days.”  Often, Branham would describe salvation as being “healed,” and take scriptures of the Old Testament prophets to apply the “latter days” to his own ministry.  In fact, Branham taught that “salvation” and “healing” were one and the same:

Now, the same word in the Bible, translated, s-a-v-e-d, and healed, is the very same word all the way through the Scriptures. Anyone knows that. Now, well, when you're--you're saved, spiritually, or you're saved physically... now, He said to the woman, "Thy faith has saved thee," physically, saved you. Now, it's in the redemption; it's in the atonement; it's in the plan of God. You can be spiritually saved or physically saved, because He was wounded for our transgressions, with His stripes we're healed." Is that right? So it's just according to your faith.

Now, in His loving mercy, after ministers, through the years, has passed through the land and preached this wonderful Word, thousands of people has been blessed, and saved, and healed, and so forth. Then, in His sovereign mercy in the last days, as He promised, when the last days, I will pour out My Spirit."

51-0718  THE.ANGEL.OF.THE.LORD

This, of course, was describing the prophecy of Joel found in chapter 2, which Peter proclaimed was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.  But William Branham pointed Joel’s prophecy to his own ministry, using the phrase “the last days” out of context to apply to the “End of Days.”  Those listening for these awe-inspiring stories, watching the many confessing their healing, began to associate “healing” with “salvation,” in their minds.  Since many were healed, they mistakenly thought many were also saved.

But as I sat and listened to the missionaries returning from overseas, I realized that there was a vast difference in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and spreading the gospel of divine healing.  While the divine healers told their listeners that God would heal their bodies (save them) if they believed in the name of Jesus Christ, missionaries of the real Gospel of Jesus Christ spread the good news that these earthly bodies mean nothing.  The work that Christ did on the cross was far greater than anything this world has to offer.  God may send blessing to heal their bodies, but then again, God may have much more in store for them.  God may even be using their dire situation to lead just one more soul into His Body – and these missionaries may be sent so that the real gospel can be spread even further!

It is interesting when you study the scriptures concerning the “latter days,” because while the verses have been twisted and refocused to the Divine Healing movement, their first mention in the scriptures is in a very similar situation.  Balaam, who William Branham taught had the “same anointing as Moses,” was a sorcerer who practiced divination – a sin punishable by death under the Mosaic Law.  In fact, Balaam was one of the most powerful sorcerers in the land, travelling hundreds of miles at the request of the evil Balak to place a curse on the Children of Israel.  The god that Balaam served was not the same god that forbade Israel from cursing, from divination, and from all forms of evil.  Yet, Balaam came forth with a god that had the same name as the One True God.

But in Balaam’s last oracle, and while attempting to curse Israel, God turned his prophecy of a curse into a prophecy of blessing – the greatest blessing that the world would ever know.  This blessing, according to the Word from the Lord, was to come in the “latter days.”

And now, behold, I am going to my people. Come, I will let you know what this people will do to your people in the latter days.”  And he took up his discourse and said, “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, and knows the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered:  I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;

Numbers 24:14-17

This prophecy, the very first in the Bible describing the Christ Child, came from Balaam.  And the prophecy was pointing to the “latter days,” which was a vague and distant future for the Children of Israel.  While the “last days” described in the New Testament point to the “End of Days,” all scriptures of the Old Testament describing the “latter days” point to the day when the prophets come to an end and the Son of God rises into authority.

In Micah 3, the Word of the Lord came through Micah to describe the “latter days,” and condemned even the prophets of Israel:

Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry “Peace” when they have something to eat, but declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths.  Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination.  The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them

Micah 3:5-6

And without taking the entire prophecy in context, snipping this single section out of the Bible, one would falsely believe that God was speaking only to the prophets of that current time in Israel.  But remember the words of Christ in the book of Luke:

 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.

Luke 16:16

 

Even when we continue reading the prophecy of Micah, the focus is pointed to Christ – not to the Divine Healing movement:

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say:  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”

Micah 4:1-2

There is no greater Teacher than Christ, and no greater teacher will rise in human flesh since the day that Christ ascended to the throne.  Once Christ ascended, He sent His Holy Spirit to judge the world – that same judgment that the Old Testament Prophets foretold.  Remember, that same Holy Spirit that was sent to lead us and guide us was also sent to judge sin:

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.  But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

John 16:4-11

Even Moses spoke concerning the “latter days,” and described the very situation that brought an end to the prophets.  Israel was punished for their idolatry, Jerusalem invaded and scattered.  While the temple lay in ruin, and Ezekiel, Daniel and many other Jews were taken captive by Babylon, the rest were scattered to the four winds.  Zechariah’s prophecy after captivity was a call to gather them back together.  Moses declared that if they abandoned the Law, this would happen – they would be so scattered that they were only a few in number among the nations.  He said that in the “latter days,” they would be restored:

And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you.  And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.  But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.  When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice.  For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.

Deuteronomy 4:27-30

 

And Isaiah, speaking directly from God, spoke the same words that came to Micah – almost word-for-word:

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”

Isaiah 2:2-3

Jeremiah also proclaimed the Christ that would come in the “latter days.”  But before they saw this day fulfilled, God would execute his judgment against their idolatry.  Only in the “latter days,” when the Prince comes, would Israel understand this:

Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me?  declares the Lord.  And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”  Behold the storm of the Lord!  Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked.  The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intentions of his mind.  In the latter days you will understand this.

Jeremiah 30:21-24

 

While it may seem harmless to point these scriptures into the future and the return of Christ, any twisting of scripture alters the context of other passages.  To call the “divine healing” movement the “latter days,” or the “latter rain,” one must also point the scriptures of a coming Redeemer to those days, taking the restoration of Israel by the Christ and applying it to a man.  I truly believe that this twisting of scripture is the reason we see so many cult leaders rise in the name of Christianity. 

The god they serve may have the same name as the God that we serve, but their “christ” is not the same Christ that died on the cross to redeem us from the Law and lift us into the shelter of Grace.  Their god is a different god, one that requires a human for salvation.  Faith in their god also means faith in their leader, making their leader an interceder between God and man.

To any trapped in one of these cults that have risen from this movement, the words of Paul to Timothy should help to give you strength and courage:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.  For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-7