3. GOD WANTS TO CLEANSE THE CHURCH
OF ITS APOSTATES
Acts 5:1-16 (KJV)
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch.
13 And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)
15 Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. 16 There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.
In these last days, a cleansing from the apostates of today is taking place. The false, the hypocritical, the evil hearted, the foul speaking, the lies, are going to be cleansed out of the church.
During a revival, the manifest presence of God is strong. The former and latter rain revivals had - and will have - a very strong, close, and powerful presence of the Lord. Whenever God's presence is near, He will judge the rebellious and abundantly bless those yielded. If sin is present, He must judge it.
As the High Priest stepping into the Holy of Holies on the day of Atonement, would fall dead if there was unrepented sin in the camp. Likewise, if the priests were doing temple service (as lighting the golden lampstand or offering sacrifices), and they noticed that their hands or feet were dirty, they would need to immediately wash at the laver. If they neglected to do so, they were smitten dead by the Lord.
The man who reached out to steady the ark of the covenant, fell dead when he touched it. In the same way, God's Presence will bring blessing or judgment, depending upon our own standing with Him. If we are in sin, and God's Presence visits us, we are judged. If we are justified of our sins, and in right standing with God, His manifest Presence will cause revival and blessing. In His mercy, God will not give us His Presence today, until we have come in repentance to Him. Thereby, we may feel the lack of revival blessing, but if we humbly repent, the Presence - and blessing - of God will come. If He simply chose to visit our services next Lord's Day, there would perhaps be many who would be stricken dead at such a visitation. So God withholds His Presence, patiently (or impatiently) awaiting our repentant reconciliation to Him.
During the early days of any great revival, God is trying therefore to purify His people. He can thereby bring more and more revival to them as they are purified.
Ananias and Sapphira were judged for the lie they spoke in the presence of God during the former rain revival. They were not judged for not giving all of the money from the sale of the land, for this was not of necessity they were giving. But, they lied in God's Presence.
Attempting to emulate Barnabas' gift of chapter 4, Ananias gave but did not have the faith or the generosity of Barnabas. He was being hypocritical. God does not tolerate hypocrites during the former or the latter rain revival. This is why many congregations do not have much revival yet, in this revival. If God's Presence did come down in manifest revival, He would need to strike many hypocrites dead.
This may seem strange that this 'God of love', 'God of mercy', and 'God of tolerance' that many of us have grown so accustomed, would strike someone dead.
The God we see in the revival periods (for instance, at the tabernacle in the wilderness, or at the time of recovery of the Ark in the days of King David, or during the former rain revival...) was adamant in His insistence upon purity.
Likewise, during the latter rain revival, this same God of love will again insist upon purity... holiness... and will judge those who are not. Sin is present during the latter rain revival. This has been predicted for thousands of years, and we who now live in that age, can attest to the presence of sin in the midst of those that God wants to revive.
I Timothy 4:1-2
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, ...speaking lies in hypocrisy."
We have seen God judge sin in some high places of Christianity in the last number of years. A number of people in high positions of the Christian world have been judged. There has ben sin in congregations, in ministers, in evangelists, in denominations, in deacons, etc. Not in all... but in "some". God has only done so far, as He has done in all ages... purifying His people. Yet, there will be a special purification... that surpasses all that He has ever done in any age. Jesus is soon to return for His church, and He therefore is seeking a purity above any ever demanded by the Lord.
"That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish."
God is working during this latter rain revival to purify His church. He wants the "glory of God" in us, and the purity to be so great, that He can revive and bless us as never before.
There is therefore coming a judgment upon the church. The people of Noah's day were shocked by the judgment that came upon the earth in those days. The five foolish virgins were shocked at being shut out of the wedding chamber in the story of the ten virgins. Ananias and Sapphira did not expect judgment either.
"Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane, and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord."
"Tares" will be removed from the "wheat" first (before the harvest of the "wheat", which is the rapture of the church). These tares will be severed by a miraculous judgment of God in the time of the latter rain revival.
"Then Jesus sent the multitudes away (this message was not for all - even in that day), and went into the house, and His disciples came and said, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field... He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man, the field is the world. But the tares are the children of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world (age). The reapers are the angels... The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things (or persons) that offend, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire. There shall be weeping and wailing of teeth."
"So shall it be at the end of the world (age), the angels shall come forth and sever (Greek = aphorizo = to separate from) the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire."
The judgment is pre-rapture, for the wicked are severed from amidst the believers. After the rapture, this would be unnecessary, for the believers will already be removed from this world. The Bible has often warned us of a judgment of the church.
I Peter 4:17-18
"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of those that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"
Jesus wants a pure church when He comes to rapture it. He finds it far from that purity at the moment. The revival cannot even get progressing as He would like to see it progress, until a new purity is found. We need revival, but we need a purifying purge of the church to remove the "tares" sown there by the devil.
In Ezekiel is recorded a frightening passage. Ezekiel is being shown a vision that describes this last day purging of the church. He sees angelic beings who come. One angel marks those who are pure, and the others go forth with a slaughter weapon to slay all who are not so marked. The judgment begins at the "sanctuary."
"...six men... slaughter weapon in his hand... go through the midst... set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof... to the others... smite... slay utterly... come not near any man upon whom is the mark, and begin at My sanctuary..."
This prophetic vision has not yet been fulfilled. Many scholar's believe that Peter was referring tho this prophecy when he spoke I Peter 4:17-18. The sinful state of the church in the last days, requires a purification that this passage in Ezekiel describes. It will be a miraculous, unprecedented judgment that will enable the latter rain revival to be have the Presence of God that God wants us to have. It will get the church ready for the soon coming rapture.
II Timothy 3:1-14
"in the last days perilous times shall come."
These "times" referred to by Paul, are times when people shall have a "form of godliness, but denying the power thereof..." These "perilous times" are times when a judgment comes from the Lord upon the church. Many have hopefully assumed that the "perilous times" mentioned, are times for the world, and not for the church. This is not in keeping with the context of the passage.
There are hypocrites, troublemakers in most every church. The word "hypocrisy" comes from the Greek word - "hypokrinomai". This word means "to play a part in a play."
God will not tolerate those in the congregations of the latter rain revival that simply are play-acting. The hypocrites in every age are in trouble with God, but the ones in the latter rain revival are in grave, perilous danger. God has made it plain in Scripture, but mankind tries to ignore it, and look for the revival, the mercy. We will have revival, but the kind of revival that God wants us to have will not come until God removes those who play-act their faith.
Ananias and Sapphira coveted and lied to cover their covetousness. Whenever the presence of the Lord is near, as in that revival, God will judge sin as surely as He will fill the hungry. At the former rain revival, God's presence filled the upper room when they were all in one place, and in one accord. The Spirit descended, they were filled, and 3000 were saved.
When God's presence filled the place where Ananias and Sapphira came to present their offering, and a lie was told... judgment caused two to die immediately. Like the Jewish people did concerning their judgment, many of the congregations of today cannot imagine a judgment time on the church. They have blinded their own eyes to the need of such a judgment, and they have ignored, perverted, and misapplied many passages of the Word of God that describe and predict this judgment.
What do we do? We must be ready, prepared, and the best way to be ready is to often "examine" ourselves. This is the purpose of the communion we share. We are to be sure that we are ready "till He come". This demands a purity, and oft-cleansing of our souls.
"...take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged (weighed down) with surfeiting (over-indulgence) and drunkenness (intoxication) and the cares of this life, so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare, shall it come upon all them that dwell upon the earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray, always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these thing that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
Apostates were cleansed from the early church revival, and God will purify His church before His sudden return. We need to understand ‘apostasy’ and its dangers.