Amidst the increased intensity of the strangeness of this hour in history, the Bible also reveals the final weapon of the Devil. This great weapon is the Devil’s fine-tuning of deception. If it were possible, the very elect would be deceived (Matt. 24:24).
Five Needed Realities for Discernment
In order to discern his age, the Christian must possess five realities of life. First, he must be born again. The reason many professing people do not see what is happening in our day is simply that they are not born again. Jesus stated in John 3 that except a man be born again he can neither enter nor see the kingdom of God (vv. 5, 3). The new birth provides (for the first time) spiritual sight for one to see his age.
Second, one must believe in the supreme authority of God’s Word. The supreme authority of God’s Word is the infallible authority that must be believed even if church, government, or family contradict it. Only by accepting this supreme authority will one be able to see his age.
Third, one must also have a daily relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the illuminator of God’s Word. Although one certainly needs a daily relationship with Christ, it is also imperative that he have that daily relationship with the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word of God for a spiritual sight of his age.
Fourth, one likewise must be separated from the world. If one is worldly and carnal, he automatically carries a partial blindness toward his age. This partial blindness limits spiritual sight about his age. All Christians must believe in biblical separation from the world.
Finally, one must have a biblical victory over pride. This lack of victory is a problem for a Christian because he does not want to acknowledge when he is wrong. When one does not see spiritually, he may be afraid to acknowledge it. Nonetheless, he must let pride go when true sight is finally revealed. Just swallow the pride, and thank God, the sight came!
This world is blind to itself. Likewise, often the Christian tends to be blind to himself. When the Bible warns that we “be not deceived” (Luke 21:8), it also tells us, “Let no man deceive you” (2 Thess. 2:3) and to make sure that we do not “deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8).
God’s Strange Work
A final perspective in the Word of God about this word strange must be noted regarding the End Time of these last days. (God’s people must carefully see and understand this.) When the world leaders, its culture, its religion, and its humanity become so strange and peculiar in their ways, likewise, God Himself will begin working in shocking and unusual ways that almost seem to contradict His ways in the past. From time to time, the Bible unveils strange workings from God not only to the world but also to the true Christian. Once the event passes and time reveals the effect of that work, it may not seem so strange in the light of His purposes and plans.
Perhaps the earliest time of God’s strange work was at the fall of Adam and Eve. Before God turned the parents of all humanity out of the Garden of Eden, He declared a strange work that seemed to have been a curse rather than a help to this first couple, amidst the plight of sin into which they had entered. God had made a perfect world, a perfect environment, a perfect earth for the full convenience of man. But once the fall came, God immediately brought changes to the woman, the man, and the earth, which seemed to add to their trouble. Would not things have been better had God permitted nature to continue in its perfection with Adam and Eve remaining the same and no additional adversities? Looking back over it, God in His wisdom and justice mercifully limited man and nature.
To the woman, sorrow and pains of life would be greatly increased in a variety of ways. In sorrow and pain she would bring forth children. Her desire would be to her husband rather than away from him, and he would rule over her. Since Adam listened to his wife in partaking of the forbidden fruit, the ground that he was to till and cultivate with ease would be cursed on his account, and in misery he would eat the fruit of the ground all the days of his life. It was as if God had said, “On thy account I will do this.”
God also commanded that the ground would bring forth thorns and thistles; it would fight back against the man, yielding only meager quantities. Man’s life would be a lifelong continuance of the soil until he returns to the ground. Man will have just brief respites between the portions of his work and the moments he will sit down to eat. Because sin now rules the heart of man, he will need an earth that constantly fights against him in order to help subdue him in his sins, and in the hope of cultivating some measure of character in his life though fallen. These curses were to come progressively, getting worse as man became deeper in his sin; it continues to be so, and it will be so until the Millennium brings about the change of abundance and fruitfulness and the partial lifting of the curse. Until the Lord comes, nature itself will grow worse; then God must bring the great release of nature from the sins of man.
Another strange working of God is found during the days of Job. We should understand that until Job’s day, God naturally blessed with long life and prosperity all righteous men who lived true to Him. The Old Testament gives promises concerning natural blessings. (Charismatics falsely keep drawing from the Old Testament for this matter of prosperity and health.) These blessings were to the land, the longevity of life, and the abundance of possessions. However, in the New Testament God begins to look at the blessings from a spiritual perspective. Instead of long life, it is eternal life (which is a quality of life). It is the health of a soul; it is the health of a walk with God.
When God permitted Job to be smitten by the Devil, Job’s friends reasoned in their arguments from the perspective of God’s usual workings with man at that time—that God gives to the righteous prosperity and health. Job never mentioned the Devil. He did not even have a consciousness of the Devil in the sufferings he was experiencing. Job completely viewed these unusual workings as God bringing him to poverty and physical suffering. Yes, he lost everything. In that dispensation of God’s dealings, such tragic loss was not the norm.
This unusual event introduced to the world the enigma of theodicy—why do the righteous suffer? At this time God changed the pattern of His dealings and worked with righteous men in almost the opposite manner. Yet, as the Old Testament continued to unfold, God continued to bless men in the natural, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Israel. This incident with Job proved that the blessings through wealth and health were not to be the constant, normal ways of God with His people now. Job became a prelude to the coming of God’s Son to earth, Who would be given to much suffering and ultimately be seen as Job—forsaken and cursed by God. The suffering of God’s righteous people was a strange work of God.
In the New Testament, suffering commingled with grace is God’s way of bringing forth godly character. God’s Son took on human nature, a nature He had never tested Himself. This was all new to the Son of God; therefore, the Son learned obedience in suffering as a man through the strange work of the Father.
The Strange Work of God in Judgment
Let us now draw aside to see God’s strange work amidst a strange land. Isaiah 28 records the woe upon Ephraim (representing the northern ten tribes) and their fate in the coming Assyrian Captivity. This record is also a warning to Judah in the South. In verses 14–22, Isaiah rebukes Judah’s nobles who were seeking to make a secret arrangement they thought would protect Judah against the Assyrians. God tells Isaiah their boasted arrangements will entirely fail in the time of trial. The help they sought from Egypt was filled with lies; the overflowing Assyrian scourge will pass through the land and carry all before it. A time of great vexation will follow. God’s anger will be poured out upon the land in strange ways.
The prophet pled for the rulers to lay aside their scorning of God and humble themselves. Note Isaiah 28:21:
For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.
Now, we must carefully note the two geographies of Mount Perazim and the valley of Gibeon. These are two locations where God performed a miracle for Israel. It was at this Mount Perazim (1 Chron. 14:11) where David completely defeated the Philistines under whom Israel had greatly suffered. The valley of Gibeon draws the heart back to Joshua 10, where God performed a mighty miracle in behalf of Israel and defeated a great federation of nations against them. Although God’s divine help was with Israel back then, now (Isaiah 28) God is going to be on the side of Israel’s enemies!
The people Israel would now suffer as the Philistines had suffered in previous times. Yes, the punishment of His own people by the sword of foreigners would become a strange work of God in the earth. Instead of God being with His people, He would be with the enemy in the overthrow of His people. It was their strange conduct, their strange living, that caused God’s strange actions. They had become, as it were, the Philistines in their living. Therefore, God defeated His own people through Assyria and Babylon, even though many in the days of Jeremiah refused to believe God would ever do such a thing. They believed that God would never destroy Jerusalem, because of the presence of His temple. Even the prophet Habakkuk was surprised that God used Babylon to bring the destruction of Jerusalem.
God’s Strangeness upon America
In the past, our own country has witnessed God fight for it when enemies came to destroy us. Remarkably, out of the 242 years since we gained our independence, the United States has been at war 224 years. This fact means that out of our entire history, for only eighteen years has our country not been involved in some war on the earth. Twenty-three major wars have been fought since our independence in 1776. This is the way that God has always dealt with nations in judgment. He has always used countries to overthrow countries. He has used nations to conquer nations. He raises up one to overcome and bring the fall of another; and then in that failure He will raise another one up to take the victory over the previous nation.
But is God now doing a strange work to overthrow America? Is our sin of rejection so deep because we have known the Gospel deeper than any other nation? The Great Awakenings, the movings of God in the deeper life of Christ, all will bring about a strange work, a strange judgment from God. We certainly believe that God is now giving our country over to its destruction in the moral and Christian apostate implosion of it. God has already given us over to our uncleanness, through the lusts of our own hearts as a nation, to dishonor our own bodies with the debauchery of drugs, tattoos, and body piercings. We have changed the truth of God into a lie—even in the churches—by changing the truth of God’s Word. And we are worshiping the creature more than the Creator. God has given us over to vile affections, for even our women are changing the natural use into that which is against nature, and men are burning in their own lusts one to another, working strange sins, dark sins, devilish sins. God has given us over to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are deep in the strangeness of the natural.
But what will be the United States’ final overthrow? Will it be through the powers of another nation? Or, will it be by assimilation of those which are strange to America’s beliefs, to its Constitution, to its God and its Gospel of former days? Or, will God permit the Muslims and those of other countries to boldly take over? Or, will we witness a surge of Roman Catholicism, due to the overwhelming number coming across our southern borders? So many are bringing strange cultures, strange gods, and strange lifestyles into our country. Will we be destroyed by an enemy coming in like a flood because God will not lift up a standard of purging or deliverance? The world may witness the greatest nation in history (except for the former glory of Israel) to be dismantled. Its destruction may come like the powers of leprosy and cancer eating away bit by bit (as we sadly witness today) until our nation is taken to the morgue in the stench and putrefaction of death. We kill our unprotected babies with delight; we rob life from the youth as they become the prey of perverse and wicked men who have gone beyond perversion and into the dark, strange world of the inverted. Oh, what strange way, what strange method will God use for the overthrow of America—yea, its annihilation?
Our strange sins demand a strange act of God! Our destruction will not be by the norm of the sword, by the norm of another nation. Our destruction may come from within by many strange acts coming together like locusts to destroy us. It is evident, because of the peculiarity of the strangeness of America, God is going to perform a strange act that is going to shock the world!
The Strangeness of God’s Work in Trials
Although a strange work of God is coming to our nation, a second strange work of God is coming to His true saints. Note 1 Peter 4:12:
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.
Peter reveals there are going to be testings and trials coming with such strangeness and peculiarity that it will cause us to be astonished. Will some of God’s precious children experience a depth of certain grief and suffering that will cause us to wonder, “Where is God?” Will there be incidents for weeks on end where we will still be asking God, “Why? Why did You let this happen? Why did this take place?” Such incidents and happenings will be beyond the norm. Such incidents will prove that only the grace of God will bring us through amidst its strangeness and peculiarity. What ways will God now use to intensely begin preparing us for difficult days ahead, strengthening our faith and our hearts?
In this passage the apostle Peter most affectionately declares, “Beloved.” “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery [or, burning] trial which is to try [or, test] you.” When such strange trials come, we are not to think some strange thing has happened unto us. We are not to say, “God, this is not You; this is not the norm; I have never known You to do this, either to me or others!” We may witness in the coming days such situations among His beloved. When they come, O God, help us not to think as though some strange thing had happened unto us! “But rejoice, inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
We must see that God loves us so much that when He performs a strange, fiery work, those that hear and those that observe may secretly say, “I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.” There are trials coming, dear brethren, that are going to be so peculiar, so strange, seemingly so foreign to the ways of God, that we will think it is not from Him. In the Book of Job, God Himself tells us the fourfold truth about suffering Job’s character.
The opening verse of the book declares he was a (1) perfect man, (2) an upright man, (3) one that feared God, and (4) one that eschewed evil. God forbid we let the Charismatic thinking control our thoughts when dear brethren go through strange trials, by thinking less of them, or thinking that something is lacking. “I have never had to go through that; I have never experienced that.” The people who are thinking such thoughts may be backslidden when they say it. Like the example of Job, the deeper one goes with God, the deeper his testings will be.
Some may ask, “When God sanctifies me, will I have less temptations?” The answer is “No, you will have more.” Testings may become greater; temptations may be deeper, all because you are deeper with God. No faith has any worth that cannot be tested. This is why God sends trials. God is not seeking for us to fail and backslide; He seeks to test the faith for strength, to see it remain strong. The Devil tempts to destroy; God tests to strengthen.
In Job 3:25 Job broke his silence after his friends came to visit him: “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” Oh, the commentaries with little insight that presume Job had secretly been living in sin, and that he was afraid it had finally caught up with him. This conclusion was what his friends thought: “God has never done this before to a godly man, so it is obvious, Job; you’re not a godly man. You’ve been sinning secretly.”
Amidst a consciousness of God’s abundant blessings, have we ever thought, “Oh, God, what would I do if You took all of these away from me?” Such seasons of contemplative fear, no doubt come to us. It is not a doubt of God; it is just that He has blessed so abundantly. Here is a man with a wife, with children, and with abundance. In the first five verses of Job, just one incident with his children proves the fourfold quality of his character. This is all God needed to reveal to us. “It may be that my children have slighted God.” On behalf of his children, Job did not offer up a sin offering; he offered up a burnt offering, an offering of consecration. Yes, he simply said in 3:25, “O God, if You took it all away from me. . .” It is almost as if, when God brings another blessing into your life, you are almost hesitant to embrace it for the fear that “the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
We must not look at this verse in an improper way. The Hebrew here is “I feared a fear”—supposing it was all taken from me? The next verse reveals this: “I was not in safety [that this thing could never happen], neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.” Oh, the variety of God’s providences: He gives things; He continues to give things, precious blessings; and that same providence, in God’s mysterious wisdom, takes them away.
We must put the best view on this passage, for this is a godly man; this is not a man who has become afraid that God has found him out. God Himself will state in 1:8, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” And in 2:3, “and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.” This commentary is directly from God!
So, why did God permit these things to come upon Job? Why do the righteous suffer? Why did God not explain to Job before He died His purpose for these trials? God never revealed “why” to Job. Yes, dear reader; the burning may get so deep, so fiery, consuming our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and body that we will wonder, “God would have never done this to me.”
Persecution may increase upon God’s people in the future, even here in America to the point of imprisonment. Persecution could be so intense that it will be like a fiery furnace. It is to prove us. And we must always remember, it is to always turn out for our good. “We know that all things,” including the fiery trials, “work together for good to them that love God.” This is not true for everyone; it is not true for those who do not love God and who are not called according to His purpose. We must remember that at the time of the writing of 1 Peter, Nero was beginning the first of ten imperial persecutions in Roman history dedicated to destroying Christianity. The prisons, the torture, the sword, the stake, the lion—all were to threaten the infant church. The Christian religion eventually was declared illegal; this strange world was committed to blotting out the very name of Christian and God. Peter, with tenderness, encouraged them, “Beloved, this is to try you. You must not think it strange.” He does not depreciate the severity of the coming persecution. He calls it a “fiery trial.” Have we ever told the Lord, “I don’t know how much more I can take”? Remember that God’s hand is on the temperature of the trial. Even when the Devil has been given permission, God’s hand is still in control. Peter calls upon his audience to rejoice in that trial, for it will bring them nearer to Christ. It is part of the conformity to His image. And, the fiery trial is the preparation for heaven. Suffering weans the Christian from earthly enjoyments. God is wanting to wean us away from anything that competes in our love for Him. The trial helps to lift up our eyes from the earth and to see by faith the glory that shall be revealed.
Personal trials presently are to prepare us for persecution that is coming. Such a mood and spirit is seething in our country against the Christians. Christians are becoming the object of the anger of the world, believing that Christianity is the troubler of the world’s problems. We must not think it strange that God is permitting this growing hostility in our country and around the world, because He permitted it against His Son. For the Christian, the problem will be in our thinking. How do you think about your trials?
The Paradox of God
When the Lord healed the palsied man let down from the roof, Luke 5:26 records the people’s response who were crowded into the house:
And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.
This response is a unique paradox in that they glorified God, but they were filled with fear having seen strange things. The phrase “strange things” in the original Greek language is paradocis, from which we receive the English word paradox. In contrast to paradox, the word dialecticism means “two literal opposites”; a paradox is two “seeming opposites” molded together for a singular principle, therefore balancing both and negating neither.
This miracle was a paradoxical event; this was a strange thing. The theological systems have always had problems with the paradoxes: “Are you a Calvinist or an Arminian?” Do I have a third choice? Do I have to be either-or? Is there another that brings the brotherly balance to the both?
We are seeing strange things today—we are seeing paradoxical things. What are the two things that seemed to be opposites in this passage in Luke? The first is this man, a paralytic man with the extreme loss of power of movement. Some aspect of the brain or the spinal cord brought an incapacity of physically functioning in life. Sometimes that is the way people are spiritually; they cannot function well as a Christian. What is the problem? Is it carnality? Is it timidity? Is it fear? What is it within an individual that causes such an affliction, a paralysis, a palsy?
But here is the paradox—Christ first forgave him. “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” (We must not believe that forgiveness before healing is always the sequential method of God. In John 9 the blind man is healed and then he believed on the Lord.) To this paralytic, after his sins were forgiven, Christ said, “Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.” It seems that this disease came upon him for some unique sin in his life, and that is why it was imperative for Christ to forgive him first, and then heal him. The people declared, “We have seen strange things today”—the healing, but also the forgiveness of sins. It is important to see people forgiven of sin but then healed from the side effects of those sins. And God can do it! Thank God, He can do it! But we need to be forgiven first, then let God take care of the side effects. People today want to be forgiven, but they want the desire of sin to remain, including the side effects. The churches today are filled “spiritually” with souls handicapped, lame, and blind (Rev. 3:17:b). But God is able to do more for us than simply forgive us of our sins. The two may not happen simultaneously, but He forgives and He heals.
As a stranger in a strange land, we also left a church system as it became strange in a strange land. We are seeing strangers ruling in a strange land. Carnality is a strange land. And we are going to be witnessing some strange trials to come upon God’s people. When we hear of them, we must pour out our heart toward that individual. Some of God’s married couples may have children born to them with afflictions, severe afflictions. Some may think, “This is so sad,” or, “I am so sorry that your child was born this way.” Dear reader, this is not the way God’s people view these things. They do not view it as a blight. They do not view it as a negative from God. Sometimes the deeper the affliction, the greater the gift from God. We are praying for healing! That certainly would be a miracle to talk about. And we believe healing is in the Atonement. But God may desire, in some situations, to honor Himself by not healing while providing grace for the special gift of affliction.
God’s motive in whatever He does is for Himself; we are second. It is to His glory. There are alternatives. What will bring Him the greater glory? Will it be the healing? Or will it be the proof that His grace is sufficient, and out of it, as the years unfold and the child grows older, we will find that God honored us with an example of a most comely gift. “Where is God in the matter?”
Take the time to look for God. What do we say in the prayers? How do we say it? What words do we say to God in the delicacy of these things? Only God knows the reason for it all, and I must trust Him. Sometimes you must tell parents, “Do you trust God with your child? Do you trust Him? Are you willing to take your hands off? Don’t protect your child from God! Trust God with the child, and the circumstances of life.” Our times and our child’s times are in His hands! A woman who has lost a child in death no longer needs to struggle in prayer for him. The child is safe in heaven. The child did the will of God in the appointment of life in the womb of the mother. We must not think it strange. We dare not use the word strange for God. He is not a stranger. He doeth all things well, and He knows what He is doing. He knows the end from the beginning.
We may witness the final collapse of America in our lifetime before our death or before the Rapture, and we may be absorbed in a situation that we never dreamed would take place. But think it not strange concerning the fiery trials, and when the paradoxes come seemingly filled with opposites, the way to save your life is to lose it. Losing your life is strange; it is paradoxical. God’s strange ways work amidst a strange land. Job questioned God, but he did not have a Bible; we do! We have seen God work in the lives of the people recorded in the Scriptures. Jacob cried out, “All these things are against me” (Gen. 42:36), but we know from Romans 8:28, that this was not true.
May God help us as we witness what seems to be strangeness in the workings of God in the End Time of the last days, that we will continue to trust and believe, “He doeth all things well.”