Understanding the Times and Seasons : Part 1

Part 1 – God’s Eternal Purpose

Introduction:
We are living in exciting days! I hope that you think so. In fact we are in unprecedented days, days that the prophets of old saw and spoke about and longed to experience in their day.

For example:
Never has there been so much praise and worship going up from the face of planet earth as there is today. e.g. …singing the same worship songs right around the world….the love language of the saints of God.

Never has there been so much prayer and intercession ascending to God’s throne as there is today. Illustration: Small and large 24/7 Houses of Prayer (Kansas City, USA), Prayer mountains in South East Asia, the rise of organisations such as the Global Day of Prayer coming out of S Africa), various Child Prayer Movements ( e.g. The Royal Kids’, India), Youth prayer…USA recently where 100,000 youth met recently for a day of prayer and fasting to seek God to forgive their nation particularly over the murder of innocent babies through abortion.

Most recently the World Prayer Association (WPA) held an event in Jakarta, Indonesia, where over 100,000 people including leaders of government, market place and Church leaders, Youth and 20,000 child intercessors gathered to pray and testify about examples of national transformation. They met to worship together for four days whilst 373 other city stadiums throughout Indonesia were filled to capacity and over 400 million others linked up around the world to watch the pre-televised event on Pentecost Sunday.

Never has there been such an increase in the revelation and understanding of the counsel and wisdom of our God as is being revealed today as He seeks to restore His Church.

Never has there been such a release of the prophetic ministries, of vision, of dreams, of declarations, of visits of angels to the saints or visits to heaven by the saints.

And finally never has there been such an acceleration the fulfilment of biblical prophecy as there has in these last 100 years.

We are privileged to be alive today. We are certainly in unprecedented days!

However all this is taking place against the backdrop of intensifying darkness in the world. But that’s consistent with world conditions at the time of all major moves of God. It was so in the coming of Jesus to earth as a man. Just as the prophet Isaiah prophesied about His first coming so it will be in the world at the time of His second coming when He comes to take His Bride.

”Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the face of the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you” Isaiah 60:1,2

Many of the signs recorded in Matthew 24 are being experienced repeatedly today ….. earthquakes, famines, wars and rumours of wars. We are certainly in the “beginnings of the birth pangs” but that darkness, as in the days of Noah, must yet reach its full measure before He comes. Jesus said that…. ”As it was in the days of Noah so it shall be at the coming of the Son of Man”  which refers not only to the unexpected timing of His coming but to the evil darkness that would envelop the world in the day of His coming as it was in Noah’s day. This darkness will be like the trumpet that heralds the glory of the hour. It points to the glory that is yet to come. The fact that we are aware of the hour we are living in, at all, is a privilege indeed.

But this privilege of discerning the hour comes with a responsibility which we must respond to and of course we first need to discern the ‘Time and Season’ itself.

There are two scriptures that will help us to discern and to respond correctly.

a) 1Chron 12 v 32 “The Son’s of Issachar that understood the times and seasons”

b) Acts 3 v 21 that says….”He (Jesus) must be held in heaven until the restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets since the world began”.

a) 1 Chr 12:32…“The Son’s of Issachar that understood the times and seasons”

Who were the ’Sons of Issachar’? ……..it does us well to understand their gifting and their role in ancient Israel.
Their importance and role for Israel is demonstrated by the fact that they were recorded in the scriptures here. Their contribution was appreciated enough to be recognised above the other tribes.
According to Jewish writings such as the Targum, the sons of Issachar were also biblical astronomers and astrologers who kept track of the times and the seasons. Although the Targum is a collection of Jewish traditions and not necessarily historical fact it does serve to suggest that the Sons of Issachar had a particular role in Jewish society. So much so that they were singled out for mention in 1 Chr 12:32.

The Targum says of these people…”and the sons of Issachar, who had understanding to know the times, and were skilled in fixing the beginnings of years, the commencement of months, and the intercalation of months and years; skilful in the changes of the moon, and in fixing the lunar solemnities to their proper times; skilful also in the doctrine of the solar periods; astrologers in signs and stars, that they might show Israel what to do.”

Their knowledge of the Jewish Torah and their understanding of the times made them keepers of the biblical calendar.

Consequently, they were the ones who made known the appointed times and seasons of when Israel should observe the feasts of the Lord (Lev 23).

Since the Lord’s Feasts reveal God’s plan and timing of His redemption in the Messiah (Jesus was to be the Passover lamb to be slain) I believe it is clear that the sons of Issachar had an anointing which gave them a unique insight into God’s timing of things past, present and future.

The Sons of Issachar often advised the Kings of Israel. For example, during Israel’s first civil war, when God was transferring the kingdom of Israel from Saul’s ruler-ship over to David, eleven of the twelve tribes were divided amongst themselves as to whom they would serve. The 200 chiefs of tribe of Issachar discerned the times and rallied the people to the point that “all their kinsmen” followed after David. Whether or not their action was decisive in turning other’s allegiance over to David is uncertain but what is clear is that the sons of Issachar were able to totally commit themselves to David, because their wise men understood that it was the time for God to fulfil His prophetic word given by Samuel 17 years earlier (1 Sam. 15:28). The Lord granted them an anointing to understand the prophetic timing for when He would… ‘tear the kingdom of Israel away’ from rebellious Saul and give it over to his servant David (1 Sam. 15:22-28).
We should be like the Son’s of Issachar.
If we too will heed the prophet Word and seek to understand the time and season of God then we too will find ourselves able to fully cooperate with God in bringing to pass the things He wants to do in our generation. In fact it is imperative that we do listen. Scripture insists that we do. The kings and Israel herself were judged because they had not listened to the voice of the prophets. See Daniel 9 v 6 …”and we have not listened to your servants the prophets”. God for Daniel was the “revealer of mysteries” and for Joseph God was the interpreter of dreams.

In the N.T. Jesus warns His disciples to understand the signs of the seasons. In Matt 16:3 Jesus rebuked them for not doing so. “You know how to interpret the signs in the sky but you cannot interpret the signs of the times”. In Luke 19:41- 44 we read of perhaps the saddest indictment upon Israel that Jesus ever gives. He felt the pain of it so much that He weeps over Jerusalem as He prophesied its destruction because …“You did not recognise the time of God’s visitation”

Certainly we are not to understand the dates and days of present and end time events as Jesus clearly said in Acts 1:7 “It is not for you to understand the times and dates that the Father has set by His own authority” but we are to know the times and seasons.

This is a part of having vision and scripture says that…”Without vision the people perish” and “everyone does what is right in their own eyes”. With vision and understanding there is direction, maturity and forward movement. When the church fails to understand Her destiny and where She is in the prophetic timeline of the Lord then there is participation in the movements of God by default only and at times even down right resistance.

Failure to discern the times and seasons prohibits us from fully cooperating with God and fulfilling our destiny.

God wants partnership in the Spirit with His people. Jesus desires cooperation in the spirit with His Church, His precious Bride.

God is sovereign and omnipotent.

He has no need of our help in fulfilling His purposes but He chooses to work in partnership with man.

What dignity He gives us, what honour He bestows upon us by such a choice.

If, as scripture says Amos 3:7 “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets”… then we need to both know the prophetic word and understand the times and seasons or if you like to understand where we are in the prophetic time line, in order for us to respond and participate fully with the Father, by influencing the conditions that must be in order for that prophecy to come to pass.

How do we, as the Church, influence those conditions that will anticipate the fulfilling of the declared prophecies in line with God’s ‘time and season’? Part of the Church’s response is by prayer and intercession.

The place of prayer in this process is crucial. Intercession is the means by which the Church births the prophetic word.

 

Example : The Revelation in Nairobi,  Kenya

This revelation was given to me when I was asked at short notice to address a meeting of some of the leading national intercessors in Nairobi, Kenya in 2006. I quickly asked me to explain the function of an intercessor and He took me through the scriptures from the Old Testament to the New and showed me that no prophecy was fulfilled or movement of God was birthed without the ‘travailing’ of an intercessor, known or unknown. He took me to 1 Samuel 1 and the prayer of Hannah and showed me, that because of her ‘travailing’ in prayer over the request for a son released not only a son to her but birthed the Prophetic Movement in Israel. It was the time and season for this to happen and her availability and ‘travail’ initiated the ‘first prophetic movement.’ Then he took me to 1 Kings 18:42-46 and showed me Elijah, who after the famine in Israel which had devastated the land for three years, discerned the ‘time and season’ and got down in the Hebrew birthing position seven times to birth his own prophetic word that the drought would end.

Then I looked at Daniel and was reminded that when he realised the ‘time and season’ he was in, the seventieth year of captivity, and that it was indeed that year that the prophet Jeremiah had declared, would see the end of their captivity, he set himself to prayer and intercession to usher in the fulfilment of that prophetic
Intercession is the means by which the Church births the prophetic word.

Daniel knew that God always uses a human instrument to participate in bringing a prophecy to fulfilment. This was
to see the restoration of GOD’s people and the rebuilding of their temple of worship in Jerusalem.

Finally, He took me to Luke 2:26 and explained that even His own Son’s incarnation had to be birthed by the intercession of Simeon and Anna to whom it had been revealed by the Holy Spirit…”that he (Simeon) would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ”.

b) Acts 3:21 that says….”He (Jesus) must be held in heaven until the restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets since the world began”.

This is the second of the verses that help us understand more clearly what God means by discerning the ‘Times and Seasons’ and I find this verse humbling, very sad and exhilarating all at the same time.

Jesus must be ‘held’ in heaven.

That Jesus would submit himself to being held in heaven against His heart’s desire is humbling. He is longing to return to sweep up His precious Bride in His arms and to present Her to Father but He will not until “the restoration of all things”. He submits to the Father’s will awaiting His command “Go get Her my Son!” and the Father will not release Him until the ‘time appointed’ when all things are restored. I find it humbling that the King of Kings and the Bridegroom King submits Himself to both the will of the Father and the conditions that He has decided must first be met. This is reflected in John 14 when Jesus at the betrothal or engagement meal (the last supper) tells His disciples that He has to leave them to prepare a place for them, the marriage home, but that He will return when all is ready. John 14:2ff …”I am going to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come back and take you to be with me”

Now in Jewish custom the marriage home was built either on the flat roof of the father’s house, or as an extension of the father’s house or on the father’s land. AND only the father knew when the home was completed well enough. He alone gave the signal for the son to go get His Bride. Jesus said, when asked when the time was that He would come again, said “Only the Father knows the hour, not even the Son”.

However the Bride must also make herself ready. Rev 19:7 says “For the wedding of the Lamb has come and the Bride has made Herself ready”. The fact that we can as a Church live in obedience or rebellion or apathy and so hinder the preparation that we must make, causes me to wonder at the humility of God who will humble Himself enough to allow us to hinder or hasten His purposes. It is also so sad that often the Church does hinder the plans of God.

“…until the restoration of all things”.

God is in the business of restoration. Not only has He redeemed mankind but He wants to restore all things. To restore is to bring back someone or something to the original perfection and purpose for which it was designed. The Church, that was designed to “demonstrate the manifold wisdom of God” Eph 3 v 10  had, as we will see in a moment, lost its way. Over the centuries since its birth it lost the fivefold ministry gifts, it lost its anointing and power and it became a human institution “…having the form of Godliness but lacking the power”. But God has been slowly and faithfully restoring all things.

He has been restoring in terms of anointing, spiritual gifts and administrations, understanding and restored truth. He has been doing this through the various revivals, visitations, spiritual movements that taken place over the last 500 years.

Now this scripture in Acts 3:21 refers to all the things that God will restore and of course that ultimately refers, of course, to the renewal of the heavens and the earth in the final phase of God’s restorational programme but as in most prophetic scriptures there are primary and secondary fulfilments of the prophetic Word.

In our day God is restoring many things as witnessed by the restoration of the fivefold ministry to His Church so that the Church can now become mature and make herself ready…”without spot or blemish!”

At that point He will be initially released from heaven to take us to the Wedding of the Lamb and then immediately to return to planet earth with His Church/Bride, to reign with Her for 1000 years. (Call2Come has a pre millennial perspective)

Finally He will judge the living and the dead and create the new heavens and the new earth.

 

 

So, how can the Church co-operate with the Spirit so we can hasten not hinder the purposes of God?

We must:
•    Know the prophecies that are recorded in the Scripture and especially those yet to be fulfilled.
•    Understand the purposes of God as revealed by those prophecies and where in God’s restorational programme we are, in this our generation i.e. Understand the Times and Seasons

  •  Understand what the things are that God still wants to restore and that keeps Jesus in heaven until they are restored.
  •  Commit the Church worldwide and especially the intercessors, to pray and intercede in order to birth the fulfilment of those prophetic words and create the conditions that bring in the necessary movements of God.

•    And of course, we must walk in greater personal intimacy with the Lord, in a deeper unity with one another, and in righteousness and complete obedience to Jesus Christ our glorious

About the author: Howard Barnes

Howard Barnes was born in England in 1944 to Salvation Army pastor parents. After secondary education he went to university and studied Theology and subsequently become a Secondary School teacher and served in several London schools as the Head of Divinity. During these years he also was a youth leader and then served as a pastor of a local church in Cornwall, England. In 2003 he retired from teaching, after 37 years’ service, to take up a position as director of an evangelistic ministry called Harvest for Christ but in 2008 he became Co-director of Time Out Mission International and more recently director of The Body and the Bride Network Ministry International (UK). These last two ministries which he co-directed with his close friend and ministry colleague, Michael Pike (Apostle), were deeply passionate about two things. 1) to see the worldwide Church discover the meaning of real unity and so fulfill the prayer of Jesus in Jn 17 v 21 and 23 ….“that they may be One even as we are One” and 2) to understand and embrace its end-time identity as the precious Bride of Christ and to prepare her for the coming Bridegroom King. These experiences have paved the way for the creation of this new ministry called The Call2Come which, while still holding to these emphasis, calls the Church to prepare Herself as His precious Bride and so position Herself to cry the prayer that only the Bride can¬ pray. It is only the “Spirit and the Bride” that can cry Come. Howard has received two honorary doctorates in recognition of his mission and reconciliation/peace work in over 70 nations around the world. He is also an official representative for Foundations for Biblical Farming (FFF) which comes out of Zimbabwe, Africa and for the World Prayer Assembly (WPA). He is a regular speaker at international church conferences and operates under an apostolic mantel. He has been married to Tricia for 50 years who was herself a music teacher, and they have two lovely married children and four beautiful grandchildren. He is both a musician and a gifted artist.