MEN IN SACKCLOTH
BY: BILL BRITTON
WHY do the scribes say that Elijah must first come before the coming of Christ?” This was the question the puzzled disciples asked the Lord (Matthew 17:10) after the scribe confused them with the prophecy of Malachi where God promised that He would send back Elijah to restore all things before the great and terrible day of the Lord. The answer Jesus gave them has a two-fold meaning. “Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elijah is come already, and they knew him not.“ The angel had promised (Luke 1:17) that John the Baptist would go before the Lord Jesus in the spirit and power of Elijah, to restore and make ready a people prepared for the Lord. This was fulfilled. One man, John, preceded and introduced one Man, Jesus, as the Christ, the Anointed One who had come to take away sin. But this was not the end of the matter. For Jesus, the word, was a Seed planted in death, resurrected in power, to bring forth a mighty Harvest in His own likeness (Romans 8:29). This Harvest is the glorious Body of Christ, ever growing into the likeness of the Seed, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, growing up into the Head, even Christ, from whom the whole Body is fitly joined together (Ephesians 4:13-16).
Just as God was manifested in Jesus Christ who came forth from the womb of the Virgin Mary. . now in the end of the Age God has a Body of people, the Temple people which are now in the womb of the true Church, the Virgin Bride or the Holy City, Jerusalem. This Body of Christ, the Overcomer, shall come forth in mighty power to manifest the fullness of Christ in the earth. They are known as the Manifested Sons of God, and this place they occupy is the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus. But before they are manifested or revealed to the world, God shall have a group known as the Elijah-Moses Ministry, a prophetic ministry sent forth with mighty power and the spirit of judgment to restore all things. And as one man, a prophet, goes before one man, the Christ, just so a group of called out saints with a prophetic ministry goes before and introduces the Manifested Sons of God, the Christ ministry. In our previous message on ‘THE TWO WITNESSES of Revelation 11,’ we found beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Scripture shows these two prophets to be the Elijah-Moses ministry of the Body of Christ. Not just two men, but the Lord Jesus in His Body which is made up of many members. Acts 3:21 tells us that Jesus shall remain in heaven and not return to earth until the times of restitution (restoration) of all things spoken by the mouth of His prophets. By looking at the 11th chapter of Revelation we can see something of what this ministry will be like.
In Revelation 11:3 we see that this people have an anointing power. To get an idea of what this anointing is like, we must look at the life of Jesus. At the river Jordan the Holy Ghost descended upon Him, and He “went about doing good, healing ALL who were oppressed of the devil.“ (Acts 10:38) No devil could withstand Him. He could see right into the hearts of men; fish and animals did his bidding, and even the elements obeyed His voice. Trees withered at His command, a storm at sea immediately stopped, and a few loaves and fishes were multiplied to feed thousands. Dreadful diseases were healed at once, skin eaten away by leprosy restored like new, crooked limbs straightened, deaf ears unstopped, blind eyes opened, and new eyes were created on the spot. This, then, was the commanding authority of the Son of God. He spoke the Word, and it was done. How could He do this? After all, He had stripped himself of divinity and laid aside His royal robes of deity when He came to earth as a Babe in Bethlehem. But at the River Jordan He had received the anointing of power and authority…. He was the Christ, which means “the Anointed” of God. Here again He was demonstrating the Pattern. For just as this Anointing came upon the Head of the Church (Jesus), it must also flow down over the entire Body of Christ (the Overcomer group), even down to the skirts of the garment (Psalms 133:2) as described in the anointing of the High Priest. The SAME Anointing. With the same power and authority. And with the same spirit of compassion and love for all men. This is the power God gave the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11, and they now enter into a ministry of judgment and restoration.
There must needs be judgment upon the earth to cleanse the earth of its corrupt and rotten sin. For the prophet Isaiah said (Isaiah 26:9): “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.“ Who is to judge the world? I Corinthians 6:2 says: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” And hear me, beloved, this judgment must begin at the house of God (I Peter 4:17), for as Revelation 11:2 tells us, the Holy City (the Woman, the Virgin Bride of Christ) must be trodden under foot for forty-two months. But why? Why must this judgment come to the Church? Because of her backslidden condition. Because as the salt of the earth she has lost her savor (Matthew 5:13), her qualities that preserve against corruption, and she is good only to be trodden under foot until she travails in birth and brings forth the Deliverer, the many-membered Body of Christ. Because like Israel in bondage in Egypt, though she cries against her bondage, she has within her a mixed multitude that have grown satisfied with the leeks and onions and fleshpots of Egypt . . . a type of the worldly system of ecclesiastical religion. And though the multitudes feed at the flesh-pots, knowing nothing else but servitude to Pharaoh and his henchmen, yet there is a remnant in her midst who cry continually to God for deliverance. And there is a Moses, raised up by a merciful God, who is in training now to be God’s Man to deliver His people.
In Revelation 11:6 the signs of these Witnesses include power to turn water into blood and call down plagues upon the earth, a definite reference to the ministry of Moses. Also the power to shut heaven that it rain not for three and a half years, a reference to Elijah. Notice that Moses got the people OUT OF EGYPT. And see how Elijah got Egypt OUT OF THE PEOPLE, destroying the prophets of Baal and making the people acknowledge the Lord as God. So this is the two-fold ministry of the Sons of God at this time…. to get God’s people to come out of the old harlot systems of manmade religion, and then to perfect the people and get the systems out of them. But it takes judgment to do this. Note how that Moses has to make Israel willing to leave Egypt. They said to him, “Moses, leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians, for it’s better that we serve in bondage than to die in the wilderness.“ (Exodus 14:12)
But when the ten plagues were finished, part of which Israel suffered; she was willing to leave with Moses. See how that Moses had been a part of Israel, had tried to take his place and had been rejected and finally had tied into the wilderness where after forty long years of burning out all the self life, he had met with God at the burning bush. Then back to deliver his people, and found that they were still not willing to leave. But this time he had the power of Judgment, and he made them willing to leave. And now God says in Deuteronomy 18:18. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee (Moses), and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. “First of all this refers to our Pattern, Jesus, who fulfilled this at His first coming (Acts 3:22, 7:37). Furthermore, this is that Prophet, or prophetic ministry (the glorious Body of Christ including Jesus the Head), which precedes the full manifestations of the Sons of God. They asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah, or “that Prophet” (John 1:21), and he said no, he was not. But we know that Jesus referred to him as Elijah, for he was a type of that prophetic Elijah-Moses ministry that comes forth in the end of the age.
Jesus spoke through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 61:1-3 concerning His Ministry. But what Isaiah saw was both the ministry of Jesus in His first advent, and also Jesus in the fullness of His Body, the Overcomer, bringing forth judgment upon the earth. For in verse 2 of Isaiah 61 he says His ministry is “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.” But in Luke 4:16-21 when Jesus read this scripture in Nazareth to introduce His ministry to them, he did a very strange thing. When he got as far as “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord . . .” He stopped in the middle of a sentence, closed the book and sat down and said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Why did He not finish the part about “the day of vengeance of our God”? Because it was not yet time for that. The day of vengeance, the time of Judgment must wait until the Body of Christ was perfected and ready to come forth in mighty power. For God determined that we, the saints, must judge the world. Isaiah 28:2 says that “Behold the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.” And he goes on to say that the Lord will be “for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment (Verse 6), and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.” And Jeremiah, seeing this Temple group, the Body of Christ, taking vengeance upon Babylon, the kingdoms of this world, says in Jeremiah 50:28, “The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion (the church) the vengeance of the Lord our God, the vengeance of His Temple.” And speaking of this Overcomer, God says in Jeremiah 51:20, “Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war. for with thee will I break in pieces the nations (Revelations 2.26-27), and with thee will I destroy kingdoms.“ (Daniel 2:44-45) SO here in Revelation 11 and 12 we see this happening as the Sons of God, His great Army, goes forth conquering and rising to new heights in God. Finances, transportation, communication, or persecution are no problems to them, for nothing is impossible unto those who have received the anointing of power that now comes upon the entire Body of Christ, the first-fruits of the great Harvest. They walk continually in the will of God, speaking only the words of God, bringing forth the Judgments of God until the Church is purified and perfected and the whole earth is cleansed. Something of the realms they walk in can be seen by reading the chapter on “THE OPEN HEAVENS” Past experiences cannot be used to describe the miracles they will perform, for this is far beyond anything we have ever known, there is no comparison.
Suddenly, when their testimony is finished and their ministry in sackcloth (this natural body or tabernacle of flesh) has come to an end, we see them overcome by the beast from the pit. Why? This is the pattern. Just as Jesus gave himself into the hands of His enemies, so must these saints. But this is only a stepping stone to enter into glory (Luke 24:26). For if we suffer with Him we shall also be glorified together (Romans 8:17). These, like Jesus, whose lives could not be taken from them, gave up their lives voluntarily (Revelation 12:11) and by this they become full Overcomers.
Now there comes a lull in the judgment, and the whole wicked world of sinners rejoice and make merry, while the true virgin Church travails to bring forth the full Manifestation of the Sons of God. This is in the middle of the week, after forty-two months or three and a half years of tribulation. But the worst is yet to come. But let us take a look at what is happening during this lull…
Psalms 79:1-3 is very expressive concerning this time: “O God, the heathen (nations) are come into thine inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9); thy Holy Temple (Overcomer group) have they defiled they have laid Jerusalem (the Church) on heaps (Revelation 11~2J. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth (to destroy, they think, the hope of the resurrection). Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; AND THERE WAS NONE TO BURY THEM”. These are momentous, terrible days such as the world has never seen before. The leaders of the nations seemingly gone mad in their defiance against God and His people.
Isaiah 51 has too much to quote all of it here concerning this time, but read it for yourself. In fact, turn to it right now. Notice in verse 17 that God says that We Church, Jerusalem, has been drinking the cup of God’s fury, and now she had come to the place where even the Sons who have been guiding her through these terrible days, are gone. Where are they? Verse 20 says: “Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the Lord, the rebuke of thy God.” But why are the Sons full of the fury of God? To follow the Pattern… see Isaiah 53, especially verses 4 and 10, where Jesus was “smitten of God, and afflicted”, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him”, and “He hath put Him to grief.“ This then is the suffering that must be endured to obtain the joy that is set before us, to join Him in Glory. Isaiah goes on to say that God is taking now the cup of fury out of the hand of the Church and putting it into the hands of them that afflict her, and to them that trod her under foot. So, for the next three years and a half we find the most terrible tribulation of all, yet the church is hidden in God, in a wilderness place, and does not taste of the wrath of God anymore. Though the devil tries to destroy her, since he sees he cannot reach the Sons who have now ascended into a glorified heavenly body, yet Satan is defeated again. So he makes war against the remnant of her seed, those who are martyred and obtain salvation in the midst of this great time of trouble. But Satan is now cast out of his exalted heavenly position, the place he stole from Adam, and the Sons of God have now ascended to their original inheritance and far beyond. For Haggai 2:9 tells us that “the glory of this latter house shall be greater then of the former.” And those who now dwell in this heavenly place (though their bodies still walk the face of the earth) can rejoice because the heavens are now cleansed. But woe unto them that still dwell in these earthly tabernacles during this last three and a half years (Revelation 12:12), for Satan is full of fury and great wrath, knowing his time is short. The world has never seen the vile, awful depths that sinful man will go until the devil and all his hordes of demons become incarnate in mankind during this period.
But glory to God, all this time God has a people who are walking the face of the earth in victory and power, and kingdoms and strongholds fall before them. . God shows His mighty power and His wisdom through His Church (Ephesians 3:10). And just as Satan becomes incarnated and manifested through flesh, so also Christ is manifested in His fullness in human flesh again, this time in a great Army of saints, His Overcomers. God help those dear people who are still expecting to fly away and miss all this, for there shall come a rude awakening. Those who have prepared an Ark shall enter in and rise above the floods of Tribulation and trouble. And when the flood is over, they shall come forth to inherit the earth, now cleansed from its wickedness and sin (Psalms 37). For as it was in the days of Noah, the wicked shall be taken away, and Noah steps forth from the ark to a clean world that he has to share with no one. Just think, dear ones, of a world where there is no sickness, no pain, no death, no sin, no disappointments, no thorns or thistles to hinder the fruit from coming forth in abundance. You say that can only happen in Heaven? Did not Jesus pray “on earth as it is in Heaven?” Yes, God will have victory right here on this earth, and right now He is preparing a people to enter into the great battle of the Ages. They are not playing religious games in the market-places, not making merchandise of the souls of men, but they are travailing in birth to bring forth this glorious Body of Christ. Even now God has revealed His purpose in perfecting the saints through Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. Let them rave! Let them imagine vain things! They shall not hinder His plan from coming to completion. “Let Pharaoh’s Army roar! Moses, my servant, shall drown them, saith God, in the same element that delivers my people out of bondage. For I shall take the weak and the foolish things of the earth and bring to nought the strong and the wise: For no flesh shall glory in my Presence, saith the Lord, but ye that do overcome shall honor Him that delivered you, and ye shall praise His Name forever, even forever and ever.”
Be very humble, dear ones, and submissive to the Spirit of God. These are key words in this day. Humble and submissive. Bind them upon your heart; let them be even as your right hand and your left. For the strong and the proud and the stubborn shall soon fall in this battle. But those that are lower than the dust of the earth shall survive and shall rise to heights unknown. Yes, you shall judge the world, saints . . . but you will do it in humility and with a broken heart full of love and compassion. And in so doing, you will show forth the glory of God. Be not afraid to face the awful future in this tabernacle of clay, this natural body. For He shall clothe you with Himself, and (Philippians 3:21) shall change our vile (natural) body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body (body of Glory). Pray for one another.
MEN IN SACKCLOTH [Bill Britton] 1