Church Is Coming Out Of Captivity
"For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage." (Ezra 9:9a) The Lord spoke to me several weeks ago and said that He is getting ready to turn the churches' captivity. You may question, "Captivity? How is the church in captivity? What do you mean by that?" In order to be held in captivity, you have to be taken captive by an enemy. So, who is this enemy that has captured the church? Religion- the same religious spirit that was in the Pharisees and kept the people held in bondage. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matthew 23:27,28) Religion gives a righteous appearance- looking like something that it's not. "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; 'These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars: I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead'." (Revelation 3:1) If we'll be honest, we have to admit that this pretty much describes the church as a whole- we have a name, we look pretty good, we stand out in the community, but we only have an "appearance"- an appearance of godliness. "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." (Revelation 2:4) "Lost your first love." Love is a relationship. God intended for His church to have a relationship with Him and be a "living organism", something that is alive and reproductive, not a "religious organization". Since this has become the state of the church, and since this is not God's intention or purpose for the church in the earth, He is going to do something about it; He is going to change it back to it's original design and intent. (This is good news.)
God has an appointed time for everything. "Because to every purpose there is time and judgment." (Ecc. 8:6) I believe the time of His appointment is at hand. "For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I have gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." (Jeremiah 30:3) "At that time I will bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord." (Zephaniah 3:20) As we look through the scriptures, we find that God has an appointed time for everything. Israel was in the wilderness for an appointed time of forty years; the Israelites were held in Babylonian captivity for seventy years; "for the vision is yet for an appointed time" (Habakkuk 2:3); "to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens" (Ecc. 3:1); "at the time appointed I will return to thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son" (Genesis 18:14); "for at the appointed time the end shall be" (Daniel 8:19b); "because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:31a); Jesus was born "in the fulness of time" (Galatians 4:4); Jesus' resurrection was at an appointed time "as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). God has appointed that the "glory of the latter house be greater than the former house" (Haggai 2:9). He is coming back for a glorious church- one "without spot or wrinkle" (Ephesians 5:27); an overcoming church- seven times in the Book of Revelation when God is addressing the church He says, "He that overcometh". He's not coming back for a church that is held in captivity or bandage- it's not going to be a "prisoner church" held prisoner by the enemy, but one that is a "prisoner to the Lord Jesus Christ". "Wherefore he (Jesus) saith, 'When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men'." (Ephesians 4:8) "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Revelation 12:11) I believe the time of His appointment is at hand because the scriptures speak of these things in the last days. (These are the last days.) "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." (Isaiah 2:2)
God has to bring deliverance to His church or else how can we preach deliverance to the captives when we are held captive ourselves (Isaiah 61)? How can you sing the songs of Zion when you have "hung your harps on the willows" (Psalms 137:1-4)?
How did we get into captivity and how are we going to get out? In order to answer these questions, let's look at the nation of Israel- they are a spiritual parallel of the church. When we talk about Israel's captivity turning, we are talking about the literal nation, but we can also compare "spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:13b). In Romans 1:20, it tells us that God uses the things that are seen to reveal the things that are not seen. In other words, He uses natural things to help explain spiritual things. When God made a covenant with Abraham He told him, "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore" (Genesis 22:17) The sands of the sea represent his physical children Israel, and the stars of the heaven represent his spiritual children, the church. "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:7,29) So, let's look at Israel to get our answer. As we do we will see a spiritual parallel between the two.
What caused Israel to go into captivity? "And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity." (Ezekiel 39:23) They went into captivity because they sinned against God by not keeping His commandments and by serving other gods. This is where we've missed it too. We have not kept God's commandments. "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mark 7:7) We have picked the commandments that we wanted and omitted the ones we didn't. We have compromised and turned the scriptures around to suit our own wills. We have served other gods- the god of entertainment; the god of food, fun, and fellowship; the god of self-will and self-gratification; our own plans and agenda; served our own programs and shut God out if He got in the way. When God gets shut out, there goes the relationship and it gets replaced by religious practices trying to keep it alive.
Now let's talk about how God is going to bring us out of captivity. The turning of captivity, whether it is that of a nation, the church, or an individual is a sovereign act of God. But even then we have a part to play; there is something that we have to do. "In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." (Daniel 9:2) What does this mean? It means that when Daniel read the writings of the prophet Jeremiah he discovered that the appointed time for Israel to be held in captivity was seventy years and then after figuring up the time he discovered that the seventy years was almost over. Once he made this discovery he begin to pray. "And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments." (Daniel 9:4) His prayer was two fold. First, he prayed that God would remember His mercy and bring them out of captivity as He had promised to do when the time was up. Before God does anything, the Bible says that He reveals it to His prophets (Amos 3:3), once He does then they have a responsibility to "pray it in". When God is ready to do something, He always calls someone to pray for it to be done. We see that in the books of Daniel, Nehemiah, Isaiah, 2 Chronicles 7:15, and Jesus even taught us this when He said, "After this manner therefore pray... Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:9,10) Secondly, Daniel's prayer was one of repentance. "We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments." (v. 5) He confessed the sins of his fathers and of his nation and repented of them. We also see this taught in the scripture references that we have listed above.
This brings us now to answer the question, "How does the church get out of captivity? What must we do?" As we understand that God's appointed time is at hand, then we must do the two things that Daniel did- pray for God's will to be accomplished and repent for the sins of our fathers. This is our calling and responsibility. We keep praying for the "great end time revival" and we keep praying for the "end time harvest", but God must do something in us first- "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God." (1 Peter 4:17) In order to be prepared for the "end time" harvest, the walls will need to be rebuilt, but they can't be rebuilt until the temple is rebuilt. In the Book of Ezra we see the rebuilding of the temple, this represents the "rebuilding" of the church- which is what we are talking about in regard to God turning the churches' captivity. The "temple" (Ezra) has to be rebuilt before the "walls" (Nehemiah) can be rebuilt. It has to happen in the church before it can happen in the world.
Ezra did the same thing Daniel did when the time had come to rebuild the temple- he fell on his face before God and repented for the sins of his fathers. "I fell upon my knees...And said, "O my God...since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass..." (Ezra 9:5-7) Church, we must repent of our sins and the sins of the past generations of the church. We can't say, "I'm not guilty, I didn't do that, it was our fathers (past) who sinned and caused us to go into captivity." Ezra wasn't guilty, neither was Daniel but they included themselves in these prayers. Jesus wasn't guilty of sin, but He took the sins of the world although He was innocent. If we are going to be set free, we have to included ourselves in this prayer. The Bible says that we are one body, therefore if one part of the body does something it affects the whole body. If my eye gets something in it, it affects my entire body and the rest of my body works together to get it taken care of. Jesus taught this when He said, "If your eye offends you, pluck it out: it is better to go through life halt or maimed, than for the whole body to spend eternity in hell." (Matt. 18:9-para) When one part of the body does something, even if it's another generation, the whole body feels the results of it. So, it has to be "plucked" out. This is the first step to rebuilding the temple. When I pray for my nation, I pray that God will forgive our sins; I even confess the sins that "we" have committed. I haven't had an abortion, I didn't take prayer out of schools, I have murdered anyone, but I ask God to forgive "us" because I am part of this nation; what affects it affects me. "If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespass against me, and that they have also walked contrary unto me...Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land." (Leviticus 26:40,42)
Repentance involves more than prayer, it involves action. Once you have repented then you have to turn from your sins- stop doing that which put you into captivity to begin with. In the Book of Ezra, once the sins were confessed then came the action. The priest in Ezra's day had taken "strange wives"- they had married women that God had forbidden them to marry. (Ezra 10:2) They had to separate themselves from these wives and children. "Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as were born of them." (verse 3) Sounds pretty drastic. How does this apply to us? Marriage is a covenant, for these priest it represented being married to something other than God- giving your heart to someone besides Him; having a wrong relationship; a relationship with sin. We have to separate ourselves from those things that we have made a covenant with (what we have made an agreement with) and put away whatever we are "married" to bedsides God. Even their children had to be put away. Why? Because if you don't put away everything that comes out of that "relationship", it will continue to grow and follow you into your future. "Remember not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; and now it shall spring forth." (Isaiah 43:18,19) In order to not remember something, you have to deal with it and leave it. It can't be part of you any longer. This is what repentance is- changing your mind and going in the opposite direction. You can't keep dragging them along behind you; the ties to those things have to be severed.
When repentance comes it brings with it the fear of the Lord. (Ezra 10:3,9) Once the fear of the Lord is returned to His church relationship with God is restored, religion has to die, it's not man's will any longer, God is enthroned and self is dethroned. "And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm." (Joel 2:25)
This is called revival in the church. The fear of the Lord keeps you in a state of true repentance and will cause a great "rain" outpouring. "And all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain." (Ezra 10:9b)
Once the "temple" (church) is rebuilt- restored, which means to bring back to the original; to restore to original condition or purpose; restoring physically or spiritually to their purpose, place, or position- then the "walls" can be rebuilt. The walls deal with the world and bringing in the harvest. Now let's move to the Book of Nehemiah where the walls are being rebuilt. In Nehemiah the temple was repaired already but the walls were still torn down. It has been prophesied that the churches in the last days will be "cities of refuge". If the walls are torn down how can it be a place of refuge and safety? Whatever wants to can come right in. The refugees have to have a safe haven. The walls have to be rebuilt. They are rebuilt through prayer; they are rebuilt through unity; they are rebuilt according to God's instructions.
When God turns the captivity of His church and restores it to His original purpose and design, then we will see the church operating as she should; then we will see her, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." (Isaiah 60:1,2) As we look in Nehemiah we will see the results of restoration. "Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king's pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass." (Nehemiah 2:14) The fountain speaks of those living waters, Jesus Christ being the fountain, "well of life", that if any man drinks from he shall never thirst again. The king's gate- "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory: The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory." (Psalms 24:7,10) "Enter ye in at the strait gate...Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life." (Matthew 7:13,14) "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." (John 10:9a) The gate speaks of Jesus. One result of restoration will be that the "religious debris" that has kept people from being able to come to God will be removed out of the way. God will have His rightful place among His people and in His church. As we continue to look through the Book of Nehemiah, we will see more results of this wonderful release from captivity, restoration, and the rebuilt walls. (Take time to read Nehemiah chapters 8-13.) When the walls have been rebuilt we see order restored, the city, the priest, the people are functioning properly according to God's plan. We also see that the people have moved from being carnal to being spiritual. Let me just go down the list of the changes that will be made: Nehemiah 8:3- will have a hearing ear to hear what the Spirit is saying and will be able to respond; 8:5- reverence for the man of God and reverence for the Word of God; 8:6- worship; 8:8- anointing restored; 8:9-12- joy of salvation; 8:14-17- Booths (private prayer and consecration); chapter 9- confession of sin, praise, testimony, fear of the Lord and acknowledgment of God's mercy; chapter 10- giving; chapters 11-12- return of those who left (backslidders coming home, refugees), unity; 12:43- reputation (a good one restored), the church will be heard about in a good light, no more stigma; chapter 13- people are placed in their God called place of ministry; things are put in order- we will have compassion and love, worship and holiness once again.
The good news about what God is getting ready to do is that while it is something that He is going to do in the whole church body, it is also something that He is going to do in individual fellowships and for individuals in the Body of Christ. God wants your church to be a place of refuge, but you are going to have to be ready to receive the refugees. In the Bible, the cities of refuge were to be places of safety for those whose life was being sought after to be killed. (Number 35) God is going to have to get us out of captivity in order that we can offer protection to these souls from the enemy who is out to destroy them. If you want your church to be one of these "safe havens" then you are going to have to do what the Word of God says in regard to this- repent. Individual churches sometimes have their own unique "sins" that have to be dealt with; things that have happened in their history. If you'll notice in the address to the seven churches in Asia, the Lord had a different complaint against each one. (Revelations 2,3) This is where you need to pray that God will show your pastor what your particular church needs to do. "Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; And unto the angel of the church of Smyrna write; And unto the angel of the church of Pergamos write; etc." (Revelations 2,3) To each of the seven churches the word was brought to the pastor (the angel of the church).
Now, the really good news. I have heard so many Christians say, "I use to be- I used to be different, I used to be on fire, God use to use me, etc., etc., etc.", I've said it myself. Well, the Lord wants you to know that it doesn't have to be "used to be". God wants to set you free and bring revival and restoration into your life. It will happen the same way that it will happen in the church- repent. Repent for all the times you did things your way instead of God's way; repent for shutting Him out of your life except when you needed an answer; repent of hypocrisy and compromise; repent for unbelief; repent for neglecting His word, prayer, fellowship, church attendance and not following His commands; repent for sitting self on the throne, for being self serving and self willed; repent and get rid of anything that you have "married", anything that you have given your heart to besides God and have let come between you and your relationship with Him. Then you will see the "glory of the Lord risen upon you".