If there is a way to aptly describe the spiritual condition of God’s people today, it would be the literal condition of Jerusalem as described by Hanani, one of Nehemiah’s brothers, and the men of Judah that were with him.
“And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” (Neh. 1:3).
But what brought about this great affliction and reproach? Why was the wall of Jerusalem broken down and the gates of it burned? Even the captain of the Babylonian guard, Nebuzar-adan, knew why this happened.
“…The Lord thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place. Now the Lord hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you” (Jer. 40:2, 3).
Our rebellion against the Lord and our refusal to obey His voice today has brought affliction and reproach upon us. We have broken down our own wall and burned down our own gates, the defenses which He set up for our protection against our sins, false doctrines, and idolatrous practices.
In perilous times such as these, God raised up men and women who labor to rebuild that which was broken down. Even in face of opposition from without and within, these chosen builders labored for the Lord until their work was finished. Despite the ridicule heaped upon him, the many threats of violence, the well-laid plans of his enemies, and even the sins of his own people, Nehemiah diligently labored for the welfare of his people (Neh. 5, 13:4-29). Through his faith and trust in God, Nehemiah successfully facilitated the rebuilding of the wall and gates of Jerusalem (Neh. 6:15, 16).
In these last days, the Lord has raised up men and women such as Nehemiah to rebuild the spiritual wall and the spiritual gates we have broken down. They, too, will labor unceasingly for those who love the Lord. They, also, face fierce opposition from the enemies of the Lord and from those who profess the faith in name only. But like Nehemiah, these chosen builders will labor until their work is done.
But what are the spiritual wall and the spiritual gates of our faith? What are the divine defenses that we have broken down through our indulgence of sin, false doctrines, and idolatrous practices? What must we rebuild that will secure us from the deceptions to come?
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:17). (emphasis supplied)
These are the wall and the gates of God’s people in the last days. Those who are protected by God with such strong spiritual defenses will not succumb to Satan’s final deception in the last days. This will fill him with great wrath and he will seek to destroy them as the enemies of Judah sought to destroy Nehemiah (Rev. 13:1-8,15, 14:12). But they will fail in this, for it is written, “There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling” (Ps. 91:10)
But which of these commandments of God must we obey to inherit eternal life? The rich, young ruler and the lawyer, both desiring eternal life, asked Jesus the same question and they both received the same answer.
“…but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt. 19:17-19).
“…Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live” (Lk. 10: 25-28)
In the last days, God’s people will obey the Ten Commandments. Through their obedience to this moral law, they will rise up to overcome their enemy and secure life eternal in the heavens. They will not do this in their own strength, for this would be impossible. Through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, they will be partakers of Christ’s nature. It will be by this vital connection that God’s people will be divinely fitted for heaven and lovingly obey the commands to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They will delight in loving their neighbor as themselves. (Jer. 31:33, Matt. 22:35-40; Jn. 14:15, 15:10; 1 Jn. 5:2, 3; 2 Jn. 1:6; Rev. 22:14)
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”(1 Jn. 5:3).
The second half of our defense is the testimony of Jesus Christ, which the Scriptures tell us is the Spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). The Holy Spirit moved upon men to write the Scriptures and many of its authors were prophets themselves (2 Pet. 1:21). It is through Him that the prophets have warned their people and, by implication, the entire world (2 Pet. 1:21; Matt. 28:18-20; Jn. 16:8). He has testified to the world of Jesus Christ, and in the last days, those who have responded to His testimony will be fortified against the powers of darkness (Jn. 16:13, 14). This is what the prophetic warnings of the Scriptures were written to do.
But those who have these prophetic warnings will have more than a mere knowledge of the prophecies. They will have more than a spirit of obedience to heed the commandments of God. They will have the character of Jesus, for through the Holy Spirit, He will change His people from within (Gal. 5:21-25; Jn. 14:16,17, 21, 23). As they surrender themselves daily and turn away from their sins daily, Jesus will perfect them to withstand their last earthly trial. No weapon of the enemy will break down the wall and gates that Christ will build within them (1 Jn. 3:24).
Those who have been appointed to do this work have no time to lose, “…for the time is at hand” (Rev. 1:3). Before they can encourage others to fortify themselves, the builders must first rise up and be fortified. Through obeying the commandments of God and having the testimony of Jesus Christ, they will be well-equipped to take on this task. It will be the experience they gain from doing this that will make them effective builders of God’s kingdom.
“Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” (Neh. 2:17, 18)
When the people of God can behold one who is fortified by the commandments of God and the Spirit of prophecy (which is the testimony of Jesus Christ) and hear how the hand of God was good upon them for doing this, the Holy Spirit will convict the hearts of those who love God and they will rise up and built that which was broken down. Despite the opposition they will face from enemies without and within the faith, they will labor with God to build their relationship with Him. They will do this thing, “…for the people had a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6).
The commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ are our best and only defense in these last days. They will protect us from Satan’s final, worldwide deception and fit us for Jesus’ final, greatest deliverance. There are many in the faith now who believe that no one can keep the commandments of God. They believe them to be nailed to the cross and no longer applicable to them. To those who believe this, I implore you to remember the many people whom Jesus healed. Remember the commands He gave them.
“…Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (Matt. 9:6).
“…Stretch forth thine hand…” (Matt. 12:6).
“…Lazarus, come forth…” (Jn. 11:43).
None of these persons could have obeyed these commands on their own. Lazarus himself was dead! But with Jesus’ commands come the divine power to obey them. When we act in faith to obey Jesus’ commandments, divine power will come forth to help us carry them out. Countless people were healed, fed, and revived because they exercised faith in doing what Jesus said. Is this not righteousness by faith in action? (We will discuss this point in a later Course).
Now the commands of Jesus ring forth in these last days.
“To the law and to the testimony…” (Isa. 8:20).
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).
The commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ are our greatest defenses and our divine passport. Let us rise up in faith and build that which we have broken down, for the time is at hand.