Living In The Last Hours Of The Last Days
By Oswald J. Smith
Peter, preaching to the assembled crowd which gathered to behold God’s workings on the day of Pentecost, said, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17). We are still living "in the last days." This is the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. Pentecost marked the birth of the Church. If Peter could speak of Pentecost as "the last days," then we are living in the last hours of the last days. It is the eleventh hour! Pentecost was the beginning of "the last days." Our generation marks the approaching end of "the last days." The last hours are upon us.
God has declared that in "the last days" He would pour out of His Spirit. That promise was partially fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. But it remains for us to see the final and complete fulfillment. Let me again remind you that this is still the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. Have we, then, Scripture to warrant the hope of another great outpouring of the Spirit of God as we enter the last hours of the last days of this age?
I believe we have. It is my deep, deep conviction that God is waiting to pour out His Spirit once again, and that wherever He can find a people who will meet His conditions, He will give flood tides of mighty revival. And this, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is, I am convinced, the greatest need of the hour.
Is this outpouring for a select few? Is it only for spiritual leaders and for men alone? By no means. Thank God, His Word is absolutely clear and conclusive. "I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…and on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy…" (Acts 2:17-18). Not only the men but the women; not only the old but the young; not only the high but the low. Daughters will prophesy, and handmaidens as well.
All may claim a part. It is to be a great universal outpouring for all peoples everywhere. Anyone may seek it, any church expect it. This is the solution of all problems. Not money, but the outpoured Spirit. Not how to get the attention of the people, but how to secure the operation of the Holy Ghost. Not better preaching, but Holy Ghost preaching. "I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh." This, my brethren, is the greatest need of the hour!
Now there was no mistaking what had happened. "This is that" was Peter’s verdict (Acts 2:16). Joel had prophesied it, and at last his word had come to pass (Joel 2:28-29). "This is that." It was a definite, a genuine, a real experience.
Something happened, something so wonderful, so amazing, so unusual that not one could possibly be deluded or deceived. It was no mere "believism," but a sure-enough, wide-awake, soul-satisfying experience. Things happened. Something came of it. It bore immediate fruit. There was a true outcome. It was not for self but for others. It did not send them in to seek manifestations – it sent them out to do things for God (Acts 1:8; 2:1-47).
Prayer – the Secret of the Outpouring
How did it happen? What was its cause? There were two things. First, a ten-day prayer meeting. Not a play meeting, but a prayer meeting. We are so busy these days that God cannot get our ear. We will not be quiet and still long enough for Him to speak to us. Prayer, real prayer, hours of unbroken, uninterrupted waiting on God, seems to be largely an experience of the past.
But they waited. God got them still. God secured their attention for ten days. Peter forgot his fishing; Matthew, his tax collecting. Business was suspended for those ten days of prayer. Everything that might detract was set aside. They "continued with one accord in prayer and supplication" (Acts 1:14). Thus God got them ready. They were now prepared for the mighty outpouring of the Holy Ghost.
And that is still the secret – prayer! Get alone with God. Be quiet long enough for Him to talk. Pray until you are prayed through and prayed out. Then let Him give you the new vision. Stay in His presence. He will speak to you about hindrances and obstacles that you never dreamt existed. He will show you what is the matter if you wait long enough. Therefore, don’t be impatient at the delay, but pray on and on and on. Delay is not denial. They prayed!
Then they believed God. That is the second condition – faith. They put their trust in His Word. What was that Word? It first occurs in Luke 24:49, where Jesus said: "Behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
Then Jesus gave it again in Acts 1:4-5: "And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."
And finally in Acts 1:8: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
It was to these promises they pinned their faith. Not to a feeling, nor to a hope, nor a desire, but to the living Word of God. They knew without a doubt that their Lord’s Word would be fulfilled, and they waited!
It was not intellectual presumption. It was real faith, faith that waited, faith that expected, faith that reckoned on God. What did it matter to them that they had tarried seven days and received nothing? Did they not have His promise? And was He not true? But why did they not simply believe that the Spirit had been outpoured and commence work?
Ah, they wanted something real! And besides there would have been no outcome to prove it. It would have been a hollow thing. The outcome they sought would be manifest to all. Jesus had said "until." Hence, faith kept them on their faces "until." We, too, may wait, wait in believing prayer, "until" the Spirit is poured out upon us and on the Christless masses to whom we minister.
Results of the Outpouring
But what will happen when the Holy Spirit is outpoured? What may we expect? Perhaps if we were to find out what took place as a result of the first great outpouring, our question would be answered. What God did once He can do again; and what God did, following the outpouring on the day of Pentecost – to a greater extent He will repeat in this our day. Let us see, then, some of the things that followed that mighty outpouring.
First of all, the disciples were given supernatural boldness. What an amazing difference between the Peter who denied his Lord in the face of a little Jewish maid, and the Peter who stood forth like a rock and charged the thousands before him with the murder of the Son of God! Such Holy Ghost boldness is certainly not natural.
In the second place, there was supernatural power. That, of course, had been the promise. "Ye shall receive power…" (Acts 1:8). Not a power within themselves imparted by God, apart from the all-powerful One, but the power that operated through them from the indwelling Spirit of God. And oh, the result, the marvelous result of that power! Notice now what happened.
"And they were all amazed…" (Acts 2:12). That was the first thing – amazement. It was written on every face. Men marveled. "What meaneth this?" (v. 12). The question was on every tongue. They were astonished, stunned, amazed. What was the explanation? How to account for it? It was the most mystifying experience of their lives. And how the message fastened itself upon their conscience! What marvelous things they were hearing! No wonder they were amazed, fascinated, spellbound.
Ah, my brethren, when has anything happened in our meetings that has caused amazement? Have strangers gone out to tell their friends and relatives of the wonderful works of God? And if not, why not? Simply because there has been nothing of a supernatural nature. People are used to the natural. It is commonplace with them. But have we expected the supernatural? Is not our religion supernatural? Then why not look for God to work along supernatural lines? Why? Because the Spirit has not been outpoured.
Ask God for a mighty outpouring of the Holy Ghost and something extraordinary, unusual, supernatural will take place. And then, but not before, men will be amazed! We have been content with the natural, the ordinary, too long. No advertising will be necessary when the Holy Spirit is outpoured. Nor will there be any difficulty in getting people to attend the meetings. Once let something happen that amazes, and there will be no room for the crowds that will flock to see what is taking place. People will tell one another about the amazing things that God is doing, and the building will be thronged. But it will take the supernatural to do it. "They were all amazed." God grant it in this, our day!
Conviction on Sin
But not only were they amazed; they were convicted. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). Ah! The Holy Ghost had been at work! That had been their Lord’s promise. "When He [the Holy Ghost] is come, He will reprove the world of sin" (John 16:8). And so He did!
No sooner had He been outpoured upon the disciples than He began to convict the unsaved. And the conviction was real. It made them cry out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). And so it has been, and so it ever will be in every genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There will be conviction of sin. Men will be pricked in their heart as on the day of Pentecost. This is the great lack in the work of today! There is little or no conviction. Converts, so-called, come smiling to the inquiry room and accept Christ in such a matter-of-fact sort of way that it means nothing.
It is easy, oh, so easy, to pile up numbers in a campaign where there is no conviction. That is what we need today, more than anything else – real, old-fashioned conviction on sin that makes people cry out in agony, "What shall we do?" God save us from that type of modern evangelism that seldom, if ever sees it! Conviction is not conversion. It is possible to be deeply convicted of sin and still never to be converted. Unless conviction leads to conversion it has failed in its object. In a real outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there are genuine conversions. Souls are truly born of God and become new creatures in Christ.
Following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, mighty signs and wonders were displayed, miracles performed, the sick healed, supernatural guidance given, and angelic deliverances wrought. Such is the power of a holy church! Do not be surprised, my brethren, if miracles again happen when the Holy Ghost is outpoured. It would be amazing if they did not. Under such conditions, the extraordinary is to be expected. The reason many today are prayed for and not healed is because the power of the Holy Ghost is not present.
A Spirit of Prayer
Another thing I notice is that where the Spirit is outpoured, there is a wonderful spirit of prayer! What prayer meetings the early church had! How important they considered them! "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word," the leaders vowed (Acts 6:4). And on the night of Peter’s deliverance from prison, oh, how they prayed! No time for sleep. No time for rest. Too much at stake, and prayer, continuous, fervent, united intercession alone could prevail. So they prayed, prayed until prayers were answered! (Acts 12:5-17). This is the kind of praying we must do today if deliverance is to come in the face of the perils that all but overcome us.
Prayer has been the outcome as well as the secret of every mighty outpouring all down the centuries. Prayer is the natural atmosphere of a Heaven-sent awakening, and today we must have more and more prayer if the Spirit is to be poured out upon us, and stay the godless tide!
Do we really believe that we are living in the last hours of the last days of this age, and that God’s promise is going to be fulfilled? Let us listen once again: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh."
May God make it real in our day and grant us again and again mighty outpourings of the Holy Spirit! May we seek Him fervently, unceasingly – through prayer and supplication for this – the greatest need of this crisis hour!