“Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes of it as nothing?”
Recently the Lord began to deal with me on this particular book. Haggai is an incredible book, although it is only 2 chapters long, it carries an incredibly heavy message. The subject of this book revolves around God’s house, the place where God met with His people. In order to understand this prophetic book we must look into the context of this scene and truly grasp the historical significance of it.
It begins in 586 B.C. as Nebuchadnezzar marches his regime into Jerusalem, overthrows the King of Israel and carries away these Jews as slaves. This was an unprecedented moment in Jewish history as Jerusalem was overthrown and the temple of God left in ruins. Not since their days in Egypt had Israel been exposed to such emotions of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Yet this exile into Babylon was God’s idea. Israel had backslid, abandoning their God in exchange for idols and immorality. God was tired of the blatant nature of their rebellion and sin, so God removed His hand from Jerusalem and left them vulnerable to a superior military operation.
Many people mistakenly assume that God’s punishment comes in the form of intense action, as God slams His hand down on people. However God’s punishment is not Him slamming His hand down on people, it is simply God removing His hand from off of people! It is only by the hand of God on our lives that we are able to resist sin and temptation. Never forget it was God’s hand in Egypt that held those plagues at bay as the force of God’s wrath was poured out on Egypt.
The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that this season of judgment would last 70 years, yet after these 70 years would be fulfilled Israel would be free to return to Jerusalem where they would once again rebuild the house of God. Suddenly a new regime rises in the world of Persia, and this regime led by king Cyrus would finally put an end to the Babylonian empire, releasing Israel to return home to Jerusalem.
Now we would assume that Israel, relishing in their liberty, would anxiously look towards that day when the temple of their God would be restored! Finally after 70 years Israel would have a place of worship! Finally after 70 years Israel would have a sanctuary where they could meet with God! Yet as history unfolds, the reality of their indifference is startling. Instead of rebuilding the house of God, these former slaves are content to allow the temple to lie in ruins. They continued living for 18 years, never even attempting to rebuild God’s house.
God, sick of the complacent and indifferent attitude of the people He just delivered from bondage, moves on a prophet named Haggai. Haggai is interesting, he along with Zechariah and Malachi were among the remnant of Jews who returned to Jerusalem. These 3 men would become known to Biblical historians as the restoration prophets, prophets God raised up in the post-exilic period of Jewish history. With that we see that Haggai would be one of the last prophetic voices ever heard before Christ. And being one of the final voices of prophecy Haggai’s words carry a certain weight of urgency with them.
He first begins by reminding them of the condition of God’s house. The people of Jerusalem had decided that it just wasn’t time yet, so they neglected God’s house to build their own. As Haggai begins to voice the frustration of God we come to chapter 2 and we read the passion of God as he pleads with Israel to remember the house of God in her former glory. Although I know Haggai was speaking of a physical building, allow me the liberty to use a spiritual application.
As I read this passage, the weight of Haggai’s voice struck me to my core.
“Does anybody remember what the church used to be? Look around at what you’ve labeled the church and ask yourselves, how does this compare?”
I felt the Lord nudging my spirit, “look at what you call the church, look at what you call ministry and look at what you call the anointing; does it compare to the early church?”
I began to think of “old-time Pentecost” and I began to gauge the church against the apostolic barometer which is the book of Acts. When I did this, the only question that echoed throughout my spirit was “what happened to the church?” Where’s apostolic authority? Where’s the signs that should be following us? We pray for the sick, and they don’t recover; we gather for service and there’s no fire; our baptistries are dry more often than not. Could it be that THE church has given way to a mediocre replica, and now we’re just A church? What happened to the church?
The Apostle Paul warned a young man named Timothy that there would come a time when men would no longer “endure sound doctrine” but they would heap unto themselves teachers, having itching ears; and that they would turn from truth and follow fables. And far too often apostolics point our fingers at denominationalism, accusing them of “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”. But as I pondered Paul’s plea to Timothy I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe Paul directed this warning a little closer to home?
The word used for endure in this text is the Greek word anechomai (an-ekh-om-ahee), which means to hold one’s self up against. It paints the picture of dependency, I believe Paul was saying here that there is coming a time when the church will no longer be dependent upon sound doctrine! I fear we have entered that age! The apostolic movement has fallen prey to the itching ear syndrome, where we have become so addicted to the “style” of preaching that we are no longer concerned with the “substance” of the message. And now within the movement of Pentecostalism there are people turning away from truth to turn to fables. In other words we are becoming an entertainment based movement. This terrifies me!
I don’t want my children growing up only liking certain preachers, rather I want my children growing up loving the word of God!
I had to catch myself as this struck so deeply into my soul. How guilty I am as an Apostolic minister of being content with playing church! When we read the Biblical account of the sons of Sceva found in Acts 19, I see a picture of many so-called apostolic people; because they possessed an arrogance that believed they had a right to the supernatural! So they prayed, “devil, we adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches”.
What your pastor believes does nothing for you! The problem with these boys is that they had no authority of their own. They were “by” Jesus, Apostolic Pentecostals are supposed to be “in” Jesus! When we have “Pastor religion”, in which we only know what the Pastor believes, then we will be on the outside looking in. I’m not depending on my pastors relationship with God, I’m getting my own experience with my savior! Being apostolic doesn’t earn you any favors with God!
We see 9 of the 12 disciples of Jesus, unable to cast a demon out of a small child. They recited everything they’d ever heard Jesus say, yet they themselves were ineffective. Was the message suddenly wrong? No! Jesus answered and said “these things come only by prayer and fasting”!
Yet within the midst of the apostolic community I see so many peers following the crowds of fad, pursuing new doctrines and new methods. If you operate in apostolic ministry, and there is no power; the problem is not in the doctrine! The problem is we don’t pray and we don’t fast!
What happened to the church? We no longer depend on the word of God, and we no longer value prayer and fasting. And when we lose these necessary elements in the church, we cease to be the church. As we examine our churches, ask yourself, does this church reflect the church Christ shed His blood to purchase? If not, it’s time to pursue a revival of prayer and fasting; and it’s time to return to sound doctrine. The next time the question is asked, “what happened to the church?”. Let it be because your church has exploded in apostolic revival!