I am preaching to a church full of ghosts. Actual ghosts. They are hanging on the chandeliers. Literally, they are hanging off the chandeliers. What can I preach to a perfect church full of perfected people from Heaven?
I can’t say anything to them that they don’t already know. They shared their personal message to me already. I guess all I can do is give my testimony and confess what I’m going to try to do while I look forward to joining them.
OK. You probably think I’m just making all of this up. I’m not. Scripture bears me out and it is the Tribulation when all the normal rules are suspended and out the window.
The book of Hebrews says that we are surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses.1 But they appeared, kind of. Like when Elisha enabled the Israelites to see a vast army supporting them.2 Well, a lot of them are here today. To say the least, it is intimidating.
“Well, ‘Hi’ everybody. Oops. Not every ‘body.’ I guess as Paul would say, ‘whether in the body or out of the body, I don’t know.’3 A smattering of giggles. I think they are maybe a bit nervous for me. Hey, wait, they can’t feel any negative emotions. They’re in Heaven!
I need to hold it together. They are all friends. There won’t be any criticisms at the door.
“I can’t tell you anything that you don’t already know. So you probably just want to hear about how I can measure up to your standards since you are a ‘great’ crowd of witnesses.” There was a ripple of chuckles.
“I really appreciate that you sent such ‘high-level’ representatives to speak to me. I guess you’re all ‘high-level’ now.” I feel like Chris Farley smacking himself in the head!
“Everyone in my position, that is, on earth, needs to guard their hearts.4 But I, particularly, have to guard my heart. I realize that to overexert my heart, I may not make it through the seven years before the Lord touches down on the Mount of Olives.
“To quote the Hobbit, ‘I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.’ But then, I have an eternity for that.
“For those of us who know their Scripture, we know things are going to happen like the mountains falling into the oceans, evil rulers emerging, the rise of a corrupt religious empire, and not the least of all, a war to end all wars putting an end of the world as we know it. So, if I’m going to be able to minister during this time, I’ll have to take your advice to heart. No pun, intended.” More giggles.
They certainly are a polite group. Well, they were Victorian.
“I think I can see Billy Sunday in the back there. What a great privilege it was to be exhorted by Rev. Whitefield, Minister Finney, and President Dwight Moody. But amazingly, the biggest sinner of the bunch was Mr. Sunday. His great sin was theft. He stole more bases in his career as a ballplayer as a Chicago White Stocking than any other in his time. But he also snatched as many as 300,000 people from the fires of Hell. He preached to millions, more than anyone other than another Billy, Billy Graham. Now that I think of it, I may change my name to ‘Billy.’ But I think Verb has a little more snap. On the other hand, I don’t think I can draw many people to see me slide into second base.
I can also see seated next to Billy, the pastor who married me. ‘Hi, Ed!’ I remember his zeal for revival. I bent over his coffin a few years back and whispered in his ear, ‘I’m going to start a revival. Mark my words!’ It never happened. We don’t live in a time of great awakenings and we didn’t back then either. But it wasn’t for want of trying! As you know we have entered into a time of great rebellion.
“Even in my own unbelief, before the Great Evacuation, I realized the truth of Billy Sunday’s words, ‘Nowadays we think we are too smart to believe in the Virgin birth of Jesus and too well educated to believe in the Resurrection. That’s why people are going to the devil in multitudes.’” Great words! And go to Hell they did.
“As you know, the time of reaping has almost completely gone.5 We are losing many during this time of Tribulation. But I will continue to evangelize as the Spirit gives me power.
“You are a most remarkable group. You only had ‘a little power’ but didn’t ‘deny His name.” You abolished slavery in many nations, brought multitudes to faith, and above all fed Jesus’ lambs.6 You persevered in the preaching of His Word and many of you were snatched into Heaven at the Great Rapture.7 You have already obtained your crown and will see the City of Jerusalem coming down from Heaven to earth. What a remarkable day that will be!8
“I have read the rest of Revelation 3. I know the coming era I will have to deal with. I know that God has brought you to me as a great encouragement. Just as God told Joshua not to fear, I realize that your message to me was to ‘fear not’ as well as guard my heart.9
“Though I have failed my friend, Ed, I will not fail Mr. Whitefield, Mr. Finney, Mr. Moody, and Mr. Sunday. They are my witnesses and in God’s power, I will not fail Him. Just as the Apostle Paul said, ‘I will fight the good fight of faith . . . and I will make ‘the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.’” I will not run or toil in vain.”10
“Thank you for not failing God. Thank you for being my mentors. I know that you have your reward. The effects of your work, even now, are building through my time. Now is the time for me to build my reward. Now is the time for those with earthly bodies to reach others for Christ. Now we move into the very end of the end times, the time we call Laodicea.”
(To be continued . . . .)
1 Heb. 12:1 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . .”
2 2 Kings 6:17 “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
3 2 Cor. 12:2 “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago — whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows — such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know how such a man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows —”
4 Prov. 4:23 “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”
5 Luke 21:24 “and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
6 Rev. 3:8 “‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.’” John 21:15 “So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My lambs.’”
7 Rev. 3:10 ‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
8 Rev. 3:11 “‘I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 ‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.”
9 Joshua 1:9, “‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.’”
Josh. 8:1;10:8 and Deut. 31:8
10 1 Tim. 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Phil. 2:16 “holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.’