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by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan, Pastor

A lesson given at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, October 18, 2020

Hymn Sung Before the Lesson:
     “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25; p. 1300 Scofield).

This verse is very clear. God tells Christians to meet together – and all the more, as we see the end coming. A modern translation puts it this way,

Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25 NIV).

That’s easy to understand. God tells Christians to meet together in church! It was true then and it’s true now! Forty years ago some sloppy new-evangelical hippies said to me, “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” They were wrong then and they are wrong now! Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but a Christian does go to church! A man said to John Wesley, “The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.” In the third century Cyprian said, “He who does not have the church for his mother cannot have God for his father.” And I agree with him!

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Coming to church is even more important as we move deeper into the end times. These days life can change overnight. Can you remember back just a year ago – way back in 2019? You went to college or high school on campus, in person. You saw movies in a theater. You went to a mall. You went to a baseball game and shouted your head off in a crowd of fifty thousand strangers. Nobody thought about a shortage of food or toilet paper. That sounded crazy. You could buy anything in the stores. And nobody thought about wearing a mask.

Today those things seem impossible. The very small “pestilence” of the coronavirus changed everything. You have to stay home and go to school on the computer. No movie theaters. Hardly any shopping. No parties. No baseball games. Don’t get near other people. Stay at least six feet apart. Don’t go outside without a mask. The American lifestyle is gone. It’s hard to remember what it was like just a year ago.

But that’s not all. Not nearly all. Because of the virus, governors and mayors shut the country down. The virus gave them an excuse to act like dictators and get away with it. The Communist Saul Alinsky said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” What does that mean? In 2008 the leftist mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel explained it, “It's an opportunity to do things that…you could not do before.” Last year the left-wing website “Open Democracy” said, “When the next crisis hits, progressives [“progressive” does not mean progress, it means socialist revolution!] must be ready to seize the agenda.” That’s what they did when the virus hit.

They closed the businesses. Tens of millions lost their jobs. Stores and restaurants closed, many of them forever. They closed the schools. Governors and mayors acted like kings. Here in California, Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti used the virus as an excuse to put in their plans. They closed almost everything. Well, not everything! The liquor stores stayed open. The marijuana stores stayed open. They were “essential.” People could get drunk or stoned just as they did before. The abortion clinics stayed open. They were called “essential.” Women could murder their babies just as they did before. Sin and evil kept right on going. But they closed the churches! They said churches were a bad, bad thing. You’d get sick if you went to church. The Satanically-motivated politicians don’t want the churches, because they don’t want God.

But that’s not all. We have seen endless riots. The downtowns of Portland, Seattle, and other cities are burned out. They did it here in Santa Monica. Stores were looted. People were attacked. Buildings were burned. The media called it “peaceful protests.” I saw a video from CNN. In the background was a riot and a burning building. The CNN headline said, “Fiery but mostly peaceful protests.” It wasn’t peaceful, but it sure was fiery!

The governors and mayors had no problem with people going out by the thousands – without masks – to loot and burn. They didn’t check to see if anyone caught the virus there! That was the only safe and perfect thing a person could do! Nobody would ever get sick doing that! They let the riots go, but they fought the churches and they still do. What they did has nothing to do with people’s health. They don’t care about health. They care about power. They want to run your life.

This fall and winter the coronavirus numbers will go up. The politicians will use it as an excuse to clamp down, especially on the churches. But it will get much worse than that.

In only 16 days we will have an election. Be sure to vote, because it will be the most important election since 1860, when the country divided in two and the Civil War began. Be sure to vote, because it may be the last meaningful election we ever have.

Don’t get me wrong. I hope the right man wins. I pray for him every day. But even if our president is re-elected, we’ll have to fight the battle over again in 2024. And he may not win. So we have to look at the future in a sober and serious way.

It won’t be an easy election. It won’t be over in one night like it always was. Because of millions of mail-in ballots, it may take days or weeks to count the votes. There will be lawsuits. There will be political battles. There will be riots, bigger than before. Don’t believe what you see in the media. They will call it “peaceful protests.” But it’s just a coup, a revolution like what has happened in other countries. The nation will face a crisis. No one can tell how it will turn out. It doesn’t look good.

The trouble won’t stop when the next president takes office. If the “socialist” [Communist] left takes control, they won’t sit there and make a few adjustments. They’ll change everything. They’ll make sure it never goes back. They will pack the Supreme Court with extra justices so abortion will always be the law of the land. They will raise your taxes. They will add new states so they will always be in control. They will give citizenship to millions of illegal aliens and let in millions more, so they will have more votes. They will change everything so they are never out of power again. We won’t be a free country. Our national anthem calls us “the land of the free,” but that won’t be true anymore. We will be a one-party country. Any election after that will be only for show. It won’t be real.

If the leftist radicals get in, they’ll push their agenda – their plans. They’ll stop coal, oil and gasoline. They’ll ration electricity – because there isn’t nearly enough to air-condition the buildings and run all the cars. They’ll take your money. They’ll create endless trillions of dollars out of nothing until the dollar goes down and your money can’t buy anything. They’ll run every part of your life. And they will attack the churches. They’ll use an excuse, the coronavirus or something else. But they will attack the churches. You can be sure of that.

It's never been easy to be a serious Christian. If the socialists take power, it will get harder. But don’t stop coming to church! Our text says,

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

Don’t stop meeting together! Others will do it, but not you. Stand firm for Christ! Don’t stop coming to church! It will cost you something. It won’t just be non-Christian friends and relatives telling you not to come. That’s bad enough. It will be hard. You may lose money. Christians may be arrested – yes, here in the United States – for coming to church. There are churches right now that the government has ordered to close, but they stay open. At any time churches may be closed by force, the buildings locked up and the pastors arrested. Don’t be surprised if that happens.

If you are a strong Christian, you will stand firm at this particular point where the Devil attacks and the battle rages. The great Reformer Martin Luther said,

If I profess with loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand knew that. He spent fourteen years in Communist prisons in Romania for preaching the Gospel. Finally he was released. The secret police said to him, “Go to the West and preach Christ as much as you like, but don’t touch us! Don’t speak a word against us! We can find a gangster to kill you.” But Wurmbrand knew that his true battle was to speak out against Communism and bring the Gospel to the suffering nations under their rule. He did not merely profess Christ. Wurmbrand was faithful to his Christian brothers in Communist lands and faithful to his Lord Jesus.

In the coming Tribulation there will be another point where the Devil attacks and the battle rages. The Antichrist will force everyone to receive a mark, showing you belong to him. The Bible says,

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:16, 17; p. 1342).

Then the point of battle will be, “Will you take the mark or not?” Many people will take the mark and say they believe in Jesus in their heart. But they will belong to the Antichrist. Only the true Christians will refuse.

You may think, “That can’t happen here. This is the United States.” But the United States is part of the world. This country will go under the Antichrist just like the rest of the world. His rule will come here too.

Before that happens, Christians will be persecuted here. If they take power, the revolutionaries will come against the Bible Christians. They will talk about the coronavirus, or terrorists, or money problems, or use another excuse for why it’s an emergency and they have to run your life. They will come against the churches that won’t give in. It may cost you deeply to be faithful. But that is the way of the cross. In our time, a point of battle will be, “Will you go to church when the government says no? Will you obey your God?” The Bible says,

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

If you go, you will be faithful to your Lord. The Bible says, “Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23; p. 1254). Governor Newsom is not the head of the church. Mayor Garcetti is not the head of the church. Even the President is not the head of the church. Christ is the head of the church! When you go to church, you are faithful to Christ. If you put a politician over Christ, you are unfaithful to Him.

In the first three centuries the Roman Emperors demanded that everyone say, “Caesar is Lord.” The Christians refused to say that and went to their deaths. They knew that Jesus is Lord. In China the Communists say, “Mao Tse-Tung is Lord. President Xi is Lord.” In North Korea they say, “Kim Jong Un is Lord.” But the Christians know that Jesus is Lord! Many Christians have died for not worshipping Communist leaders as Lord and God. But they are faithful to the true Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “There is but one God, the Father…and one Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 8:6; p. 1218). Christians do not fight against their secular rulers. Those rulers have authority on earth – but not over God! Not over the church! There is one Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the head of the church! The Lordship of Christ is not just a word. You live it out in your life. If you go to church when the government doesn’t like it, you are faithful to Christ your Lord. Our text says,

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

You might think, “That kind of persecution can’t happen here. This is the United States.” But God has no covenant with the United States. This nation has murdered over 60 million babies by abortion. God has no promise to protect us. He has no obligation to keep us number one in the world. If other nations can be judged, so can we. If suffering and persecution can happen in other lands, it can happen here. The Apostle John said,

“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (I John 3:13; p. 1323).

Jesus said,

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18; p. 1137).

The Apostle Peter said,

“Beloved, think it not strange [don’t be surprised] concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (I Peter 4:12, 13; p. 1315).

Our hymn says, “Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease?” It doesn’t look like that will happen! Do not be surprised when you are persecuted for being a Bible Christian. So it is in many parts of the world now. So it was in the early centuries of the Church. So it will be when the Antichrist comes. So it will be before the Antichrist comes.

Don’t give up when trouble comes. Often the times of greatest life in the churches has been when they suffer for Jesus. In China the underground house churches have had the greatest revival in the history of the world. There is no revival in Taiwan where the Communists do not rule and it is easy to claim the name of Christ. The first three centuries of Christianity had persecution, but they also had revival, life and growth. The greatest revival of all will come under the persecution of the Antichrist, during the Tribulation, when 144,000 Jews and an uncounted multitude of Gentiles will be saved (see Revelation 7:4-14; p. 1337).

If pressure comes (the word “tribulation” means “pressure”), do not be surprised. This may be the time when your faith is strongest, and you are closer to Christ than you have ever been. Alone in the darkness of a Communist prison cell, Richard Wurmbrand saw walls made of diamonds. He knew the angels were with him, and he preached to them. You may not see diamonds, but Jesus will be there for you. You will make it! The Bible says, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13; p. 1220). The Greek word for “suffer” means “allow” or “let.” The Greek word for “temptation” may be translated “testing.” The verse could be read, “God is faithful, who will not [allow, let] you to be [tested] above that ye are able; but will with the [test] also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The “way of escape” doesn’t mean you won’t be tested. It means God will give you “a way to get through it.” You will bear it. You will make it through. You will enter into a deeper, stronger and higher Christian life than you ever had before. The words of our hymn will be real in your life. You will be “a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb.” There will be “foes for [you] to face,” enemies to face. This world is not “a friend to grace, to help [you] on to God.” Yes, “[you] must fight, if [you] would reign.” You will pray, “Increase my courage, Lord.” But you will make it. You will “bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by [His] Word.” The Bible says, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (II Timothy 2:12; p. 1280). If you suffer, you shall reign with Christ. If you suffer – even for going to church – you will reign with Christ. Jesus sees you and He will reward you in His Kingdom. You will be rewarded beyond your understanding. The Bible says that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20; p. 1252). Again, the Bible says, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9; p. 1213). That’s what God will do! So don’t stop coming to church!

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

Stand and sing our hymn!

Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb;
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
(“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).