The church in America and in much of the world is in a spiritual condition that is typified by Israel in Babylonian captivity. Therefor, much of the scripture that speaks of the condition of Israel during that part of her history also speaks of the condition of the church today. Because of the sins and Idolatry of Israel, God sent the king of Babylon to carry off into exile all but the very poorest of the Israelites. Later, because of the rebellion of Israel's king, Jerusalem was destroyed. The temple of God was ransacked and burned, the walls of Jerusalem were torn to pieces, and the people were killed or carried into exile in a foreign land where it was impossible to worship God in accordance with the law. The people of God found themselves as slaves to a foreign dictator in a land far removed from the Promised Land and from the temple of God. The book of the law was lost, and because the law was impossible to keep in a foreign land, and was quickly forgotten, the morals of God's people quickly deteriorated to the level of the heathen nation that held them captive. Sound familiar?
During the seventy year period of captivity, the generation that had worshipped according to God's principles in God's house gave birth to a generation who was taught the law second hand, and whose worship was a strange hybrid worship, and not true worship of the living God. After all, the requirements of the law for the worship of Yahweh could not be fulfilled in a foreign land without access to the temple of God. This generation had never seen the true, and therefor embraced the false. Because they had never seen the true, they could embrace as true the religion of their minds, or the religion that "fit" with their life of captivity.
This generation then gave birth to a new generation that saw the emptiness and the ludicrous nature of the religion of their parents and therefor wanted nothing of it. This was a generation that had no God. This was a generation that sought to fit in with the people and culture of captivity, after all, this was the only home that they had ever known. This was an apostate generation, and this would be the generation that would see the return of the exiles and the restoration of all that had been lost: the book of the law, the priesthood, the temple, sacrifice, the city walls and gates, and even the land.
In the early part of the 20th century, God poured out the glory and wonder of heaven upon this Earth and this country. This country saw some of the most glorious and spectacular workings of God in the Earth since the time of the first church, and it happened in "our day", so to speak. There are some alive today (I know one in particular) that remember the fire of those years when heaven bowed low and touched Earth. However, what that generation had was lost, and their children (although they know something of the religion of their parents) know nothing of the experience of the fire on the mount. They are a generation that has a form of Godliness, but no power. They are a generation that weep over lost sons and daughters who want nothing to do with empty religion, but have run headlong after the world and the sin and debauchery that it offers.
We are a people of God living in exile. We are a people of God living in great poverty awaiting the decree to go forth to rebuild Jerusalem. Ours is a religion of exile and we are spiritual captives and living in spiritual poverty in a Godless society. Some, however, have heard the call to return and rebuild, and a remnant has begun the journey back to the Promised Land. Today's generation of shaved and spiked, pierced and painted young people will be the generation to see the restoration of all that has been lost since the church went into exile nearly seventy years ago.
I see a remnant that has heard the decree to rebuild, and has begun the long journey back, but although I see that the time has come for restoration, or perhaps because I see that the time has come for restoration, I see something in the body of Christ that troubles me greatly. I see something in God's people, in God's house that disturbs me much, and I hear something from the heart of God that disturbs me deep within. I see something so dangerous, so insidious, so dastardly operating in God's people, and what troubles me so greatly is that it seems to move undetected by the church at large, for the church at large is caught in its terrible grip. If only someone would sound the alarm! If only someone would blow the trumpet, or cry out! If only... Ah, but you see, God's watchmen are crying out. They are blowing the trumpet. God's watchmen are sounding an alarm, but few are hearing, very few. The alarm is sounding against a deadly and dangerous enemy in the house of God. Oh, how dangerous is this enemy of God's people! If only I could express the evil, the deadly poison of this evil in the church! What is this evil? What is this deadly thing in God's house? It's sleep.
The church in America is in great spiritual poverty, and yet, she believes herself to be rich. This is one of the main indicators of sleep and deception: the church believes herself to be rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing, and yet, her poverty is obvious as revealed by the condition of her youth. We see a generation of Christians running to and fro having prayer meetings, outreaches, conferences, exalting in their revelation and knowledge and reveling over Christian leaders like boys trading baseball cards. And yet, our kids are already lost to the world, and if parents even recognize it, many have learned to explain it away with cute and glib expressions. I see churches reaching out to save the community, while their children are lost and dying within their walls. I see churches and church leaders throwing life preservers to drowning humanity, enthusiastically pulling them to the "safety" of a sinking ship. There's a lot of wisdom in an old saying, "if it doesn't work at home, don't bother exporting it."
This isn't meant to condemn those who have wayward children. Some parents are living Godly lives yet have a wayward child, for God must do the great miracle of conversion in the individual's life. However, that should be the exception and not the rule. The rule is that if the parents are living true Christianity, their children should come into it as well. The real reason the majority of our kids are lost today is not because they just haven't chosen to follow their parents' path. It's because they are following their parents' path of sin and rebellion. It's just that kids aren't interested in religion, and adults are. The kids are living in rebellion in the world and their parents are living in rebellion in the church.
Why doesn't the church see her true condition? Because she's asleep and her reality is not reality at all, but a dream concocted from her own imagination. My wife rarely dreams when she's asleep, but I seem to dream constantly. Perhaps that's why I wake up tired, because I work or play all night in my sleep. You know what, though? When I'm asleep, I never know that I'm asleep, and my dreams seem completely real to me. I know that I've been asleep only after I've awakened and the memory of my dream fades in the reality of the world around me. Then I realize quickly that it wasn't real at all, but just a dream. Beloved, if you're asleep, you don't know you're asleep, that's why sleep is so dangerous.
So much of what we see in the church today is not real, but only a religion of the imagination: a dream. Those that have awakened from sleep can recognize reality, and they can recognize those that are sleeping, and much of what we see is the blissful dream of sleeping Christians in an hour when the Spirit is pleading with the church to awaken. I can remember a few times in my life when I was asleep and dreaming the most wonderful dream that just flooded my soul with peace and serenity, only to have the dream cut short by the alarm or the phone or doorbell. I can remember the disappointment as the blissful dream was ended by cold harsh reality. Guess what, the alarm is sounding! The blissful sleep of religious deception is about to be cut short by cold hard reality. Just as Jonah was asleep on a ship bound for destruction and was rudely awakened by the news of a great storm, so the church's slumber will be cut short by the harshness of a reality she's not yet known in our land of ease and prosperity. The winds and waves of adversity are about to end the blissful sleep of God's people in America. How I pray that she will awaken before the storm hits.
There's so much that the church today possesses in theory only. Our forefathers had the substance; they had the experience of what we have only in doctrine. Our fathers had true conversion, but many in the walls of the church today only have the doctrine of conversion. Just seventy years ago, sinners lay on their faces at the altars crying out to God for mercy, weeping for hours until they met God and found true forgiveness and not just the doctrine of forgiveness. I know a lady that as a teenager was saved during a move of God back in the 30's, and when she was converted she knelt at the altar crying and crying for hour after hour until her legs locked and she couldn't get up. She said she cried until she had no tears left to cry, and she said hers was a common conversion experience, and not the exception. Today, sinners are told to say some prayer while the Christians close their eyes, and after the prayer is done, poor lost sinners, with vacant eyes and blank expressions, look to the preacher who then tells them to, "rejoice, for your name is written in heaven." It's a dream and not reality! It's the empty words of a slumbering church trying to propagate her dream world upon those who are living a nightmare.
Just seventy years ago, those who received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues would testify again and again that it took them a week before they got back to English. Now, we wrestle with them down front and tell them, "just open your mouth and let it come out, just say the words. That's it, you got it brother, hallelujah!" The person mutters a few syllables, partly out of obligation to the poor deceived one trying to help, and then returns to their seat believing that they've just received the Baptism in the Holy Ghost. It's a dream and not reality, and yet how Christians rejoice at such empty religion. We point the finger at the Catholics because of their empty religion, but today's Christian religion is no different than the Catholic religion: we just have different rituals.
Just seventy years ago, those that were being sanctified by the Spirit, and had embraced the cross and the work of the cross, sought and fasted and prayed with tears, some for years, for the Baptism in the Holy Ghost. When these dear brothers and sisters were filled, the whole community knew. Some of them turned entire cities and some entire nations upside down, for God Himself had come to live in man. Now, the great mystery and wonder of the high and holy experience of being baptized in the Holy Ghost and fire, has been replace with a going down front, lifting your hands and saying a few words of gibberish. Some at least do have a true experience with God, and are touched by God, or come into His presence and get sprinkled by the Spirit (and maybe even receive a gift of the Spirit), and we call this the Holy Spirit baptism. Baptism means whelmed or immersed. You shall receive power after the Holy Ghost comes upon you. Where is the power? Where is the fire? Where is the holiness? It's a dream and not reality. If you don't believe me, read a little history. I'd tell you to read the book of acts, but we've all learned to dismiss many of those scriptures very easily. We've the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and that makes us Pentecostals, but we don't have the reality, the experience of the baptism.
So much of the scripture must be torn down to our meager level of experience in order for us to believe the dream we so love. Many of the terms used in scripture have become void of any meaning whatsoever because the form is filled with no substance. Words like "intercession" have come to mean simply praying for others. However, intercession is something the Holy Spirit does, and not something we do. "The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26). Intercession is something that God does in us, but when God is not doing something, rather than admit it, it's easier to just do it ourselves and call it by a spiritual name.
Intercession is just one example of the things of God that have become jargonized, and have lost all meaning because we've lost the substance, the experience of these things.
You see, a dream has the conceptuality but none of the substance of reality. In a dream world you can say that you "see the glory cloud in your church building", for example, and if you can imagine it, you can "see" it. A sleeping church has the right phrases and concepts but not the reality. That's why you can't turn around now days without bumping into a "prophet". It seems now days that everyone with a prophetic gift (some of these gifts are true and some are spurious or greatly embellished by the flesh) is called a prophet. It's a dream, a religious fantasy, which is where titles come from. The impoverished church takes the terms found in scripture and uses these terms to describe what she does experience, and therefor convinces herself that her experience matches that of scripture. By doing this, she profanes the things of God by making them common. Let me give you something that will help you in determining if something is real or just labeled with a holy word. The true things of God are always higher than you think. A true prophet is higher than you think, not lower. Every Joe (or Joann) with a gift is not a prophet, no way.
Prophets are rare, and they are by and large unheard in the church today. The prophet's message is a trumpet blast in the ears of a sleeping church, and because an alarm is the most annoying to those who are sleeping, the church in America has closed her ears to the message of the prophets. Does she recognize the true prophets? No. God is about to restore His house that is broken down, and we read that the foundation upon which He will build His house is that of the apostles and prophets. God has sent forth the message that the true apostolic and prophetic is being restored, and the church is embracing that message. I can remember a time not too long ago when no one claimed to be a prophet or apostle. It just wasn't done, mostly because no one would've believed them without ample proof. That has changed in the body of Christ, and thankfully, at least she is now open to the concept of modern day prophets and apostles. However, because of her openness to these terms, and because of her poverty and deception, she now calls everyone with a prophetic gift a prophet and she calls someone an apostle if they have an organizational gift, or if they plant new churches. So, the church in America is embracing with open arms self-appointed (false) prophets, and doesn't even recognize the true prophets, for their message is so completely different from that of the pillow prophets she has come to know and love so well.
This dream world of deception is so dangerous because the enemy has been able to do two things to the church. He's been able to convince her that she is rich and living in the Promised Land worshiping in the house called by God's name, when in fact, she is still in exile in a strange land and in great poverty. She has the mental image of the land of Israel, but is still living on the soil of Babylon. Also, the enemy has been able to separate the church at large from God's authority, by separating her from His true apostles and prophets. The enemy has been able to play on the pride of man in order to convince men and women that they are apostles and prophets (as well as the other three "office" ministries), even though God with His own mouth has not appointed them to such an office. By doing this, and by marketing these men and women to the body of Christ, the enemy has effectively separated her from the true, for when the true comes, she doesn't recognize them, for they are so different from what she has known.
The path that leads out of Babylon is a dirt path with rocks to negotiate, with substance that bears the weight of your feet as well as the weight of the dust that covers your feet. It's a path with a specific beginning and end. What am I saying? I'm trying to convey to you that the path to God is a reality, it has substance; it's not an abstraction or a concept. It's not ideas or doctrines. True Christianity is concrete and effects our daily lives in concrete ways. It's not man doing or saying religious things, but God encountering man and Heaven meeting Earth.
Go back seventy years or more. Examine the experience of a Christianity that has been lost and has become only conceptual. You see, dreams are only conceptual, they have no substance. If your Christianity is only conceptual, it's not real, but only a dream. Paul said, "For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power" (1 Cor. 4:20 KJV). Do you have only words or concepts, or do you have the substance of another world in your heart and life? Do you have teachings and concepts and doctrines, but no power? Then you're living outside His kingdom, and the more quantitative or intricate your concepts, the deeper your sleep and the more unreal your dream world.
A dream can have all of the "experiences" of wakefulness, whether, sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, pain, or emotion, but none of the substance of reality. This is the state in which most of the church is living at this moment: the state of deep and blissful sleep. She is sleepwalking and talking. She is living in a dream world that will soon be swept away by the wind and waves of the coming storm.
"Alas that today there is more evidence of religious sensation before our eyes than evidence of spiritual regeneration and supernatural phenomenon!"1
- Leonard Ravenhill
The Spirit is saying to the church, "Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city..." (Is. 52:1 KJV).
If you or someone else is calling you an apostle or prophet (or a teacher, pastor, or evangelist for that matter) and God has not appointed you as one, it's time you and your people get out of your illusions and get back to reality. If you're dressing the wounds of God's people with uplifting messages or prophecies that all is well, "peace, peace", then God is against you. "Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord" (Jer. 23:31,32 KJV). The wounds of God's people are serious, and require strong medicine and quick and intense intervention in order to avert death. If you're a leader and can't see the desperate condition of God's people or the sword that's at the door, you will be held accountable as a watchman who's been asleep at your post. Wake up! Wake up, while there's still time to buy gold refined in the fire, and white garments, and salve for your eyes. Wake up and go to those who sell, and buy oil for your lamp.
God's people are living in a dream world in which they are rich and increased with goods, and in need of nothing, and false ministers are perpetuating this dream by telling God's people what they like to hear. They're singing them a lullaby of peace and safety by telling them that all is well. They give them personal prophecies that exalt their egos, but they're speaking their own words and not God's, for Jesus says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:19 KJV). Furthermore, don't be afraid to test a man's apostleship, for Jesus commended the Ephesians for so doing.
There are two things that contribute greatly to spiritual slumber. One is listening to the preaching and teaching of one who is asleep. The other is television and movies. Beware of both.
Finally, brethren, if your Christian life is not filled with the presence of God and with the light of God that shines into your heart exposing your pride and rebellion, and if your walk is not a walk of constant repentance and fellowship with Jesus our vine, then either you're not one of His, or you're asleep. Awaken, and go to them that sell, and buy. True Christianity is not just ways of thinking, knowledge, and doctrine. True Christianity is not mostly the mind of man in activity: that's what a dream is made of. Nor is it religious duty or activities. It's God doing something in the lives of His people, even to the extent that you can say that your earthly body has touched the substance of heaven, you have encountered God, and you've moved from a Christianity of theory to that of reality. "Love not sleep [spiritual as well as physical], lest thou come to poverty [be expelled into exile and spiritual poverty]; Open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread [of heaven]" (Prov. 20:13 ASV). Awaken, Zion, awaken, and put on strength!
1Copyright (C)1996 by Leonard Ravenhill, Lindale, Texas