Picture of Pastor David Cook

Sermon delivered February 16, 2008 by Pastor David Cook

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New Inductive Study Bible NISB unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.


Last Things

Daniel 12:1

(RealAudio Version available)

 

It did not start like I had always imagined. I had thought it would begin with a bang.[1]

 

Instead, it started quietly. And it started with us. It started when we began to help the poor, the sick and the war-torn. It started when we reached out to our neighbors. It started when we practiced the words of Isaiah:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
       to loose the chains of injustice
       and untie the cords of the yoke,
       to set the oppressed free
       and break every yoke?

 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
       and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
       when you see the naked, to clothe him,
       and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

And the results were just as Isaiah predicted:

 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
       and your healing will quickly appear;
       then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:6-8

We found ourselves experiencing an outpouring of Spirit like what we read about in Acts. Our desire to help others brought us to our knees. We were given power and zeal like we hadn’t had in years. And then, just as things were reaching a tipping point, revival hit.

But it wasn’t the revival we were looking for. It was a revival within our country’s mainline churches. [2]

We were amazed as we watched the news. Entire cities turned out to fast and pray. New York shut down completely as crowds gathered in Central Park, the New Yankee stadium and ground zero. We were stunned by aerial shots of thousands reaching up to heaven in prayer.

What was really confusing was what happened in our church. Suddenly we were divided instead of united. Some felt the National revival was just an extension of ours. I was in a group that wasn’t so sure. Another group decided the rest of us were apostates. They felt we were hindering the return of Jesus. They thought we should all just leave.

And some did. By the droves. Many of our best and brightest said they couldn’t stand to be around such fanatics. They said we were all mean spirited. They said they felt they could be better witnesses outside the church than in it.

In a matter of months our denomination was decimated. Whole congregations disappeared. Others were left with just a small group. Many of our administrators also left. And yet there was a strong core that worked hard to hold us all together.

What we weren’t prepared for was how real the National revival seemed. Sinners were converted. Lives were changed. In the cities, hundreds of dumpsters were set up where people could bring their drug paraphernalia, their magazines, and their booze. Some even threw away their TV’s, their computers, their iPods.

And yet there was something wrong. Something was missing.

It was here that world events went crazy. There was a simultaneous bombing of churches and synagogues and Mosques across America and Europe.[3] The Vatican was also targeted along with a number headquarters of churches in America. Yet we weren’t touched at all. Of course, this looked suspicious.

Then the news came that the Pope had been killed. Millions around the World mourned his death. Soon, a new pope was chosen and the world rejoiced.

At his first press conference the new pontiff declared war on the fanatics who had done the bombing. He called on our country and the countries of the world to search them out and bring them to justice or destroy them.

The next months were some of the bloodiest I had ever seen. It made Iraq and Afghanistan seem like child’s play.

The worst thing about this new breed of terrorist was how well disguised they were. Life would be normal and then suddenly a bomb would go off. No longer was the war on Terrorism a distant reality. It was on our doorstep, in our churches and in our homes.

One thing that characterized these terrorists was their strong hatred for Christians. Their stated goal was to squash Christianity. Not only did they hate Christianity, they were strongly against any sort of organized religion.

Because of this, people began to discuss the idea of exposing them through a test. What about proving them through a law aimed at enforcing Religious observance? What about enforcing a day of worship? Wouldn’t they be easy to spot then?

Soon the House and Senate were debating bills that would enforce the idea. Of course it met fierce opposition from some legislators. We cheered as we listened to them defend our liberty.

As the question loomed larger and larger, we found ourselves gaining national attention. We sent representatives to testify at special hearings. We had press releases. Our media ministries preached loudly against the bill.

Of course, this gave us more opportunity than ever to share the truth. Overnight our churches were full again. Our Share Him groups started holding meetings nightly. Our best evangelists preached in packed sports stadiums.

But, in spite of the interest, the law was finally sent to the president. We were thrilled when he vetoed it. Unfortunately Congress had enough votes to override his veto and the law went into effect.

All of this was coupled with a terrible financial collapse around the world. It became so bad that many of our members were forced out of their homes. Others struggled just to put food on their tables.

Of course, our Conferences took a hard hit. I’ll never forget the day us pastors were called to Cohutta. We were to be let go. Only a skeleton crew of evangelists and church planters and administrators were left. We were encouraged to remain as volunteers and to find other means of employment.

I was shocked at how many pastors left the church after that point.

Yet, we hardly had time to be discouraged. We were sharing good news with hungry people. The pews that had been emptied by our friends were filled again.

Before we knew it our beliefs were being debated publicly. Church members were interviewed on the nightly news. Evangelists were given prime time.

 

Christendom Turns on Us

Soon we were both admired and scorned. Those who had opposed the law thought we were brave and noble. A number of these even joined our ranks. Including some Congressmen and even the President! Before long, we were actually a force to be reckoned with. We were able to slow down the enforcement of the law through Supreme Court battles. The lawyers that defended our position were some of the brightest-and they too had joined us.

 

The issue became so heated that Christendom turned it’s attention from the terrorists to us.

 

“But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” Dan 11:44[4]

 

Famous preachers began to preach against us. Soon local churches did the same.

 

As we became more unpopular, local governments was empowered to enforce the law. Soon we found our faith being tested. We could no longer buy anything or earn money. How were we to provide for our children? But our faith was strong and we saw many miracles. Some even found manna in their backyards. This only served to enrage the public even more.

 

Living in Country/Working in City

By this time we had all moved out to more rural settings. Those were awesome times. We enjoyed peace in the country and soul-winning in the city.

But the growth didn’t last. Soon our baptismal tanks were empty. No one else seemed interested.

 

I remember one day as I ran from house to house in the rain. Not a single person let me in. Except one lady who pleaded, “God understands doesn’t He? I have to buy medicine for my child.

 

International Sunday Law

A few days later the United Nations signed a pact agreeing to enforce Family Day. On that same day our nation made it a federal offense to keep any other Sabbath.

 

I remember looking into the numb faces of my fellow believers. This was it. This was the sign in we had waited for.

 

“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ . . . then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.” Matthew 24:15-18

 

Without hesitation we left the farmhouse we were sharing and jumped into our cars. We had been driving on empty for weeks. We prayed God would continue the miracle.

 

We made it as far as North Carolina. We had stopped at a rest stop and were about to leave when we saw flashing lights.

 

“May I see your driver’s license?”

This was a deep disappointment for Kristen and I. We had both had fantasies of roughing it in the mountains during the tribulation. Now we would be spending it in prison.

 

My Family Separated

At the police station we were met by a Social Worker. When she saw Emily and Nickolas she took them into her arms. “Bless your heart little darlin’s, we’re gonna to protect you from your terrorist parents.” Kristen and I looked at each other in horror. We pleaded with her as she dragged them away screaming for mommy and daddy. We hadn’t been prepared for this. How could we continue? We were so tempted to give it all up.

Soon we were too were separated. I was tried, found guilty and sentenced.

 

 

Alcatraz

I was shipped Alcatraz which had been reopened to house Family-Day offenders. The old island fortress in San Francisco bay held just the right mystique. The feds used to place only the worst criminals here.

 

I was given a small cell by myself. At first we were treated well. We were allowed out of our cells for meals and one hour on the “slab”. The slab was the pavement that separated the outer wall and our barracks. There we were allowed to stretch our legs and chat.

 

Message from Michael

At one of these times a man tapped me on the shoulder. He was the tallest man on the slab. With a strange accent he said. “You will see your family again.”

 

“What?”

 

“My boss said to tell you. ‘You will see family again.’”

 

I shivered as I noticed his eyes. They were so strange. “Whose your boss?”

 

“His name is Michael” Turning to leave he said, “Oh, He wants you to know. He is about to stand.”

 

Deteriorating Treatment

Two years passed. We hadn’t expected it to be this long. By then they had started treating us bad. First they cut down our meals to two a day. Then to one. We could also see a change in the guards attitude. At first some had been quite friendly. But now we were being harassed and hit more and more.

 

Tony

As more First-Day offenders were caught, our cells became crowded This turned out to be a blessing for me. One morning I woke up to find Tony Burchard laughing down at me.

 

I learned that he had fled to Canada with a group from our church. Tearfully he said that most of them had been killed. He said that only he, the Smiths, and some of the Youth had escaped. Later they had been captured. However, He had heard rumors that the Tuttles and some pathfinders and their families had made it to the Rockies. He laughed that Pam had taken them on the ultimate Tuttle Hike.

 

Spiritual Hunger

Our time on the slab helped us keep in touch with the outside. There was a small T.V. on the slab that we could check during our break. We watched as the world celebrated it’s most peaceful period ever. In our country the churches were full of happy singing people. It seemed that God was finally blessing our nation.

 

And yet we also saw signs of spiritual hunger and desperation. We heard about cults whose members did strange things like spending in weeks strapped to a tree. They said they were searching for their inner messiah.

 

Lord Meytereya

In the middle of the 25th month we were watching the news when the announcer broke in.

 

Seconds later we were watching footage of the return of Jesus! They showed him descending from heaven with clouds of angels and landing on the Mount of Olives. Crowds gathered and began worshiping before him. He was astonishingly beautiful. He said that he was the incarnation of Jesus, Buddah, Mohammed and Lord Krishna and that he had come to bring world peace. He said that his Universal name was Lord Meytereyah.. That he had inspired the Bible, the Torah, the Koran and the Bagavad Gita.

 

I remember falling down onto the courtyard floor. The guards were singing hymns and praising God. Some of the prisoners joined in.

 

I was filled with the most doubt and fear I had felt yet. Were we wrong?

 

I stood up and found my Tony. Walking to the far end of the slab we prayed earnestly for strength to stand.

 

Death Penalty

One morning we were awakened by shouting guards and the clang of opening gates. “Everybody on the slab, NOW!” One shouted. We stumbled out and lined up.

 

Standing on one of the huge steps leading down to the slab, the Prison Warden made a frightening announcement.

 

We would have thirty days to decide. During that time we would be chained together on the slab and left to the elements. We would receive one meal and some water every two days.

 

Michael Stands Up

As I was being chained I looked up and was surprised by the face of the guard. It was the messenger I had seen before. As he handcuffed me he promised, “These chains will fall off soon. Michael just stood up.”

 

As he continued down the line I remembered Daniel 12:1.

 

“At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.

 

Jacob’s Trouble

The next few weeks were the worst. Our days began with freezing fog and ended with blistering sun.

 

But our physical suffering was hardly noticed. We were all struggling with God. We knew that the time had come. Were we ready? Was I ready? Was I truly His?

 

I can not describe the feeling of those days. It was like I was being crushed under a ton of bricks. I felt so sinful. Would he find faith in me when he arrived? Carefully I searched my heart. I wished I hadn’t waited so long to surrender those dark corners of my life.

 

What really got to me was when some of my friends gave up! More than one confessed their sins aloud while the guards laughed. These were set free and we haven’t seen them since.

 

I wondered if I belonged with them. Finally, I decided that I would throw myself on a merciful Saviour. I decided to stick with Him, even if I was lost. I kept repeating the words of Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” John 6:68

 

Last Plagues

 

Sores

The sun rose and fell as our misery took on a stark rhythm. One afternoon some of us overheard our tormentors discussing the latest news.

 

“Can you believe how fast that sore has spread? From just a few towns to all over Europe and Asia. They say the pain is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Are we next?.”

 

The word went up and down the line. The Plagues!

 

Bloody Ocean

One morning one of our guards started yelling. From the watchtower he pointed out over the bay. Other guards began pouring out of the fortress. One turned to run down some stairs to the sea. When he came back he looked like he had cut himself. He had blood on his hand. But the blood wasn’t his. He said the whole bay was like this and that fish were floating to the surface. He said it smelled terrible.

Heat

Three mornings later there was no fog. In fact the air was unusually warm as the sun rose. By midday our nation was experiencing one of the worst heat waves ever. One of the guards passed out as he checked on us.

 

The next day was hotter than the first. For four days the nation experienced temperatures from the 130s and to even the 140’s! Amazingly, we were never affected by it. It seemed we were always in the shade.

 

At one point one of the guards ran at us screaming:

 

“You idiots! Just give up! Look at what you are doing to us! He lifted his rifle to hit Tony but started laughing. He laughed so hard he doubled over. All he could say was “That he made me laugh!” We couldn’t help but laugh with him. We praised God for such a great way to deliver Tony.

 

Darkness

The next morning didn’t happen. By 8:00 A.M. it was clear that the Sun had no intention of showing up. She must have gotten worn out the past few days. By now the guards were turning into madmen. The darkness was filled with their cursing and groaning. All of this was directed toward the God that was tormenting them

 

Preparation for Execution

The last few days were quiet. No new plagues or signs were reported. As the hour of our execution drew near, we found that our previous depression had left us. We only longed for the end of this miserable world.

 

As the deadline approached the whole nation anticipated our end. News Helicopters flew over took footage. Famous anchormen interviewed us. Tour boats sailed close to the island so the passengers could gawk.

 

 

Execution Day

At 10:00 p.m. of the last day, the News crews began setting up. At 11:30 we were unchained and lined up against the wall. At 11:45 National Guardsmen marched out in front of us.

 

At 11:57 the guards were told to check their guns and turn off their safety switches. At 11:59 they shouldered their weapons.

As we stood there, we began to sing. We knew He was standing for us.

 

Ready. Aim. Fire.

 

Deliverance

Then the lights went out. At first I wondered if I had been shot. But no, I could feel the prisoners on either side of me. I could hear the cursing of the soldiers and the prayers of my brothers. But I could not see. It was as if God had blown out the lights.

 

Then we could see again. A beautiful rainbow was wrapped around us. We heard guns clatter to the ground. Then we heard a voice say, “look up.”

 

Obeying we find that we are looking into heaven itself. We can see into the throne room of God. There is Michael, Jesus, standing for us! We see the scars in his hands and feet. He has paid the price! He alone is worthy!

 

Then we hear His voice for the first time. “I wish that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am.”

Then a voice like a trumpet rings through the air. “They come! They Come! Holy, harmless, and undefiled. They have kept the word of My patience; they shall walk among the angels.”

 

I’m so happy I can hardly stand it. We lift our hands and our chains fall away. We all shout, “Victory!”

 

The next events happen faster than I can record them in memory.

 

Now the Sun is shining! The wind is blowing! Dark clouds swirl like hurricanes and smash into each other. Tornadoes twist down toward the bay.

There is an eye in the storm. From that eye shines glory like we have never seen it. Out of it comes the voice of God like a waterfall: “It is Done.”

 

That awesome voice shakes the earth like a rag doll. It’s the “Big One” that California has waited so long for. Our prison is tossed high in the air and we are now rolling on a wave of land.

 

Our island has become a mountain. The sky is opening and closing again and again. Every time the sky opens HIS glory shines through. I turn to see Mount Diablo twisting and shaking like a puppet on strings.

 

And the OCEAN! Tidal waves the size of

mountains are smashing into the City. Skyscrapers are tossed like twigs. Across the valley I see giant cracks in the earth. It looks like California really will fall into the sea!

 

Huge hailstones are falling. Our executioners are on their knees shrieking for mercy. Giant chunks of ice are taking them out two and three at time.

 

Our island turned mountain sinks again and now we are in a valley. The prison walls have fallen. Quickly we rush down crumbling stone steps and out to freedom.

 

But where to go? The city has been washed away, the Sierra Nevadas have disappeared. We turn to see what He will do next.

Through a break in the clouds we see a brilliant star. It is as if God’s eye is watching us no matter where we go. He will protect us through this storm.

 

One of us begins to sing. “God is our refuge and strength , a very present help in trouble. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

 

We join in and begin singing as loud as possible.

 

As we sing we are surrounded by fleeing people. Refugees from the city are running past us. They stop and turn to see what we are looking at.

The break widens as the clouds sweep back. Now we can see the stars shining brilliantly between the dark billows.

 

Then we see a solemn sight. A hand holding two tables of stone folded together. The hand opens the tables to reveal letters of fire. The Commandments! His law! His love! His Essence.

 

I look at the group that has recently joined us. They are not believers. Their eyes are wild with terror. They know that they have been wrong. They have rejected God’s law.

 

Then a voice from heaven declares the exact day and time Jesus will come. Then it blesses all of us who have kept his Sabbath Holy.

 

And now we see the sign we have been waiting for. A small black cloud about the size of half a man’s hand. It is the cloud of angels which surrounds the redeemer.

 

It takes a few days for it to reach us. We watch as the lost turn their weapons from us to each other. The priests and pastors that led them astray are some of the first to be killed. Then World War III takes place. We see missiles fly and Mushroom clouds rise in the distance. It is all so eery. Like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.

 

We spend most of our time watching the cloud as it grows. By the third day it is a magnificent white and on a base of fire. Above it is a Rainbow.

As it grows we begin to hear beautiful music. Until the sky is filled with trillions of singing angels. In their midst sits our dazzling Savior. No sun ever shone so bright.

 

In the distance we here the wails of the wicked. We aren’t wailing, but we are still overwhelmed. Falling to our knees we cry “Who is able to stand?” The angels stop their singing. It’s as if, now that they see us, they wonder the same thing.

Then Jesus’ majestic voice sweeps down. My grace is sufficient for you.” The angels step it up a key and sing louder than before.

 

As the cloud moves closer Jesus begins to shout. Wake up, wake up, wake up, you who are asleep in the ground, get up! Suddenly we find ourselves joined by shining beings. They are those He has raised from the dead. As they come up they sing “O death where is they sting: O grave where is they victory?”

 

I turn to Tony. He has changed! He looks like the Governor of Califorina! And he has so much hair! I feel my back. It’s straight and strong! And we are all shining with the Glory of god.

 

As I look I realize that people are starting to rise. The dead in Christ rise first! Then those of us who were didn’t die follow. As we head toward the Cloud and Jesus, I find myself face to face with someone I recognize. It’s the angel that visited me in prison! But he is not alone. Next to him is my lovely angel Kristen. In her arms is a small baby. It’s Anastasia! Our child she miscarried. Next to her are Emily and Nickolas. They squeal and fly into my arms.

 

Then I look over and see a similar renunion between my Tony and Eva and Abby.

Then come my parents. My mother holds a baby that she had lost as well! I have a big brother! Behind her are my sisters and their families. Then comes all of Kristen’s family. Leading them is her Dad. And there is Kristen’s stepfather Doug and his family. Kristen’s two Dad’s shake hands and we all laugh.

 

Other reunions are happening around us. Carl and Linda are reunited with his Dad. Bill and Wanda McKee are reunited with their son. The Stinchfields have found each other. Becky Carlson is holding her mother. The Clapps are laughing together.

 

Then we all turn and head toward our closest family member: Jesus.

 

As our cloudy chariot heads toward home the wheels cry “Holy! And the wings as the move cry “Holy” And the angels cry “Holy, Holy Holy, Lord God almight.’ And all we can do is shout ALLELUIA!

 

Two weeks later we are standing on the sea of glass before that Holy City. Jesus stands in the middle while we stand in a giant square around Him.

 

We witness the reunion of Adam and Christ. What an incredible sight. We are struck by how similar they look. They could be twins. Only Christ stands a bit taller. Tears stream down our faces as Adam throws himself at Jesus’ feet. But Jesus lifts him up. As they embrace we cheer like we have never cheered before.

 

One by one we are called to kneel before Him. On each one he places a crown on our heads and a victors palm and a shining guitar or harp or cello in our hands. As the last person is crowned we all sing again:

 

“Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him Be glory and dominion for ever and ever.”

 

Then Jesus turns walks up to that mighty pearl gate and opens it. He turns and says, “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”



[1] I have taken the liberty to include details not foretold by prophecy. However, I have tried to keep them strongly tied to the main points as described in the Bible and Ellen White’s The Great Controversy.

[2] I have taken most of my ideas in this sermon from the last few chapters of Ellen White’s Great Controversy.

[3] This idea is based on my suspicion that the King of the South in the last verses of Daniel 11 is radical Islam.

[4] Again, this idea is based on my understanding of Daniel 11. I believe it could be possible that the King of the South (in the last verses) represents radical Islam.


 
Hymn of Praise: #448, O, When Shall I See Jesus
Scripture: Daniel 12:1
Hymn of Response: #246, Worthy, Worthy, Is The Lamb



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McDonald Road Sermon by Pastor David Cook 2/16/08.