In the days of Jeremiah, God brought the nation of Babylon against Judah, the Southern Kingdom, just as He had done with her sister Israel, the Northern Kingdom, at the hand of the Assyrians. There were two groups of people at this time. There were those who went submissively into captivity and those who rebelled so as not to go into bondage. Under normal circumstances, we might think the latter group would be the people that pleased God. After all, the Babylonians were pagans who worshiped false gods. Surely the Lord wouldn’t want His Chosen People to live in their midst and be corrupted by idols and lies. For them to simply capitulate and meekly go under the jackboot of their enemy, and to be subject to all his wicked ways, seems wrong. But this wasn’t the case. God actually wanted Judah to be exiled to Babylon.
At this time of decision, prophets arose in Judah who spoke in the Name of the Lord telling the people not to allow themselves to be fooled and go to Babylon. Even for those who went, prophets spoke out when they were there against that captivity. They promised a quick return to Jerusalem. God had a Word about these various prophets that He conveyed in Jeremiah 29:8-9:
“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.”
These men were speaking from either their own imagination or through demonic inspiration. They were not men of God bringing forth His Word. In fact, Jeremiah 29:17-19 relates what the Lord said about these false prophets:
“‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord, that I persistently sent to you by my servants the prophets, but you would not listen, declares the Lord.’”
God found their prophetic utterances so profane and contrary to His will, that He promised they would meet a terrible end in one of the three major ways He operated. They would be pursued and ultimately killed through either sword, famine, or pestilence. In other words, war would cause their demise, they would starve to death, or a wasting illness or plague would come upon them. They spoke words that God did not give them, and they made His Word a curse in their mouths. The people rejected the true prophets that He sent because these false ones brought false hopes that God never intended. They greatly corrupted the hearts of those who heard them.
Why was it so bad that these men spoke falsely and relayed words not of God? It’s because the Lord had a different agenda, and His intent would not be thwarted but such men. Jeremiah 29:10-14 declares Yahweh’s purposes for His people:
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.’”
For far too long in the land that God had given them, the Israelites had ignored and rejected Him. They had pursued pagan gods and set Yahweh aside as an afterthought. They had practiced sexual immorality and lived as though they were pagans themselves who had no true God. Their poor choices, their apathy toward the Lord, and their depraved lifestyle had kindled God’s ire against them. Like disobedient, rebellious children, they required punishment so as to come to their senses to once more obey their Father. In His requiring them to go into captivity in Babylon, it’s analogous to a child being sent to his room to think about his sins for the purpose of getting his mind right about proper behavior.
What were they to do in Babylon? They were to settle down and make a living. In the midst of these foreign peoples, God would watch out for them, even that they might prosper in that place. More than that, God actually urged them to pray for those pagans around them. In so doing, God assured them that the welfare of their enemies would return upon them for their benefit. (Jeremiah 29:4-7)
After seventy years of this timeout from their land, of learning once more who they were in the Lord, and in seeking His face, God would make a way for them to return once they’d learned their lesson.
This was why the false prophets were a problem. If the people followed them and stayed in Jerusalem, they wouldn’t come back spiritually to God. They would continue in their abominable ways. None of God’s plans for their redemption could occur.
What about us today? Is there a parallel of sorts in what is happening in the world around us and to the Body of Christ? I think there is.
I’ve said it before, but this is a time of shaking before the return of Jesus for His true church in the Rapture. There are prophets declaring a Great Awakening. There are others saying we must gird our loins to go through the Tribulation. Only a very few of us (not prophets by any means! – simply those who read the Word of God) are taking the Biblical stance that Jesus will return for true believers to snatch us from this lost and dying world just prior to God letting loose His wrath upon it.
What is the result of this? Well, if the church thinks a Great Awakening is coming, then all is well. Obviously, with this mindset, few changes are required, and God’s people can continue doing what they’ve done for years. They can essentially rest easy believing they are obeying God and fulfilling their duties to Him. No urgency is required. The Lord simply wants them to live as they have within the four walls of the church. He’ll make a way for the Seven Mountain Mandate to be fulfilled so that His people can take over the world and prepare it for Jesus’ coming at some future time.
As to those who believe we’ll endure the indignities of the Tribulation, then preparation for that, essentially an inward looking approach, is the right thing. After all, God will surely supernaturally protect His people during this time as they hunker in their bunker. The world around them will tear itself apart, but they’ll be secure in the midst of the Lamb’s wrath. Their belief that they should be looking for the appearance of the Antichrist is correct. Since Jesus won’t come to rescue them from these coming seven years, they have to make sure their own house is in order to make it through. Their own efforts will prove to be the deciding factor in this regard.
In contrast to these two views is that of belief in the pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church. Things are not okay in God’s house. There is way too much complacency and apathy toward Him. We are Laodicea on steroids: lukewarm or cold. There is no burning hunger for the Lord. Apostasy is the rule of the day. There is a void of God’s Word among those who should know better. Because few read the Bible and understand what God plans for this world, those who are awake and watching for the Lord’s return are scarce. There is certainly no urgency to call out unbelievers that some might be saved before the wrath of God descends.
How many of us are truly living for the Lord rather than for ourselves? We are fearful for our very lives. We ignore God’s command to come together in His Name by obeying governmental decrees saying we must not meet. Man’s word is preeminent, not the Word of Christ.
I think it comes down to obedience. The Israelites who obeyed God and went into captivity were the ones He honored and saved. How about in our situation? I don’t know how it will play out with true believers who cling to the Great Awakening meme or the Tribulation endurance narrative. Those aren’t obedient positions according to God’s Word. I would think there will be consequences of some sort.
Only by being watchmen on the wall, crying out that darkness is approaching, and by proclaiming to those around us that the only salvation is in Christ alone, are we truly obeying what the Lord desires for us. Are we occupying by doing what God has set us to do while we wait? Are we digging into God’s Word with increasing hunger? Are we looking up with anticipation?
I choose this Biblical response to the times in which we live. How about you?