By Pastor Doug Batchelor
An Amazing Fact:Ancient Roman coliseums hosted brutal blood sports in which slaves, trained to be fierce fighters called gladiators, would battle one another to the death. Julius Caesar ordered large-scale exhibitions with 300 pairs of combatants on one occasion. But the largest contest of gladiators was given by the emperor Trajan as part of a victory celebration in A.D. 107. It featured a staggering 5,000 pairs of fighters! And sometimes, to provide spectators a little more “entertainment thrill,” hungry, wild animals were released into the mix. The gladiators would then have to battle one another and the fanged creatures. Despite near-impossible odds, these slaves fought fiercely because they had a glimmer of hope: If they could survive the assaults of their fellow gladiators and wild animals, the emperor just might release them. The goal was simply to be the one left standing.
A Consistent Theme
Who is going to be left standing? What is going to truly last?
The Bible clearly says that, in the last days, only a few will be left standing. Revelation 6:17 poses this important question: “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” And Malachi 3:2 affirms this: “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire [and] like fuller’s soap” (NKJV, emphasis added).
The Bible tells us that a great judgment day is coming. The last chapter in Daniel begins with Michael standing up, and after a great time of trouble it concludes with Daniel standing. “Thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13).
The screens of our minds are burned with that picture of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego threatened with a fiery furnace. Yet they stood tall as the rest of the world bowed down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image. They stood for Jehovah when everyone else fell.
Revelation 13 warns us of a coming storm similar to the one they faced—a day of reckoning. Most will bow down, but some will be left standing.
Fame and Fortune Will Fall
We often call it “Custer’s Last Stand,” but we should really say “Custer’s Last Fall,” because he didn’t stand. It was the Indians’ last stand, for standing means you’re victorious—that you survived and are still around.
So maybe we should apply the process of elimination and learn what isn’t going to stand or endure to the end. I think most of us already realize that some things people build on make pretty shabby foundations. Money is one of them—it’s not going to last. Proverbs 11:4 says, “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.” You will not be able to bribe the Judge when Jesus comes.
Proverbs 11:28 adds, “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.” And then there is Isaiah 2:20, 21, speaking of the day of judgment, “In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; … for fear of the >Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” Money is not going to last.
How about fame? The Bible is very clear. “The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot” (Proverbs 10:7). “The face of the >Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” (Psalm 34:16). And Daniel 12 tells us that the names of the wicked are covered with everlasting contempt. Instead of fame, they’ll have infamy or obscurity.
Water of Life Is Thicker than Blood
Can we always count on our friends and family standing by us to the end? Sadly, we can’t. Job 19:14 says, “My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me.” And Jesus adds, “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Mathew 10:36). Have you ever considered how many stories in the Bible are of a man’s adversaries being his own relatives? Cain killed his brother. Who betrayed Joseph? His brothers. And Jesus? His own disciple, and His own people handed Him over to the Romans. And in the last days, we’ll probably see a repeat performance of that familial betrayal.
I sometimes get exasperated because some Christians still believe that in the last days, we need to fear pagan religions, the New Age movement, and such. But I’m not nearly as concerned about the obvious enemies on the outside as the ones on the inside. Prophecy tells us whom we need to watch; it’s going to be those who share a common faith with us: the neighbors, our friends, our families. In the end, our neighbors will be our enemies. I’ve always wondered why Christ said to love your neighbors and then again love your enemies; could it be because they are often one and the same?
One would think that we could certainly trust the earth, right? It’s pretty big; the solid ground we’re standing on must be dependable. But the Bible says, “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage” (Isaiah 24:20). Have you been in an earthquake? I’ve experienced a few while living in California. The ground trembles and rolls under your feet as if you were standing on a waterbed. It’s very disconcerting, but it helps you realize there’s very little in the world you can count on, including the very earth on which you stand. Matthew 24:35 warns, “Heaven and earth shall pass away.” And 1 John 2:17 adds, “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
So what does it take to stand? First of all, you need to be filled with the Spirit. We have a story that vividly illustrates this in the book of Judges. In chapter 15:14, it says, “And when [Samson] came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the spirit of the >Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.” The Philistines went to Israel with a price on Samson’s head. So the fearful Israelites took Samson captive, tied him up, and abandoned him in a valley called Lehi. (Yet another case of family betrayal.) When the Philistines saw Samson bound and apparently defenseless, they surrounded him and shouted victory. But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes like thread.
He reached down and picked up a donkey jawbone, and the Bible says he commenced fighting against the continuous wave of armed forces seeking to arrest him. There were 1,000 soldiers—a ratio of 1,000 to one! And the one won. “And Samson said, With the jawbone of [a donkey], heaps upon heaps” (v. 16). What do you think the scene looked like when Samson was done with that battle? He was surrounded with piles of slain Philistines. He was the only one left standing.
“A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked” (Psalm 91:7, 8).
This event was also a fulfillment of a prophecy. In Joshua 23:10, the Bible says, “One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the >Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.”
How did Samson remain standing? Notice it was after he was filled with the Spirit and his bonds were burst, which is a symbol for us. If we remain bound with sin, the enemy can easily torment and overcome us (Jeremiah 30:8). However, if we are liberated by Jesus and filled with His power, we are invincible!
An Empty Sack
It’s hard to make an empty sack stand up, but when you fill it, it will stand much more easily. It’s the same principle with us. If you want to stand in the last days, you can’t be an empty sack. We must be filled with God’s Spirit.
The Bible tells us of a powerful threefold confederacy that will oppose God’s people in the last days. The saints will be greatly outnumbered. Yet they will stand. Remember that when the Egyptians came against Israel, God’s people asked, “What are we going to do?” God answered them, “Stand still. I’ll fight for you” (Exodus 14:13). And in 2 Chronicles 20:17, 21–24, a confederacy of evil nations arises to annihilate Judah and Israel. It looked impossible to Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat. His army was greatly outnumbered. (It is again interesting to note that the confederacy was made up of the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites—nations related to Israel; i.e., family.)
This axis power surrounded Judah on three sides. It looked hopeless, until God spoke through a prophet. He said to the king, “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the >Lord with you.” And do you know what the king did next? “And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the >Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness.” Would you go into battle choosing the choir as your first wave of attack? Yet that’s exactly what Israel did. “They went out before the army, and [said], Praise the >Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever.” And when they began to sing and to praise the Lord, their enemies “were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the [Edomites], the inhabitants of mount Seir, every one helped to destroy another. And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped.”
Three entire nations stood against the armies of Israel, and they self-destructed. They became suspicious and turned on one another. They became confused, as everybody’s sword was against his comrade, until the last two stabbed each other simultaneously and fell over dead. No enemies were left standing. Only the children of Israel were standing after the battle. All they had left to do was collect the spoils of war.
So how do we prepare to stand? Well, first we’ve got to ensure that we’re wearing the whole armor of God. Open your Bible to Psalm 91—a beautiful, extraordinary promise for those who don this armor to stand in the last days. The Lord says that for those who abide and trust in Him, “under the shadow of the Almighty,” will be spared from the “snare of the fowler”—that’s the devil trying to trap us. Not only will we stand with Him, we also won’t be afraid, for His truth will be our “shield and buckler.”
And don’t miss again, “A thousand shall fall at thy side,” like Samson, “and ten thousand at thy right hand.” Just picture that if you will. A thousand at your side and 10,000 at your right hand—all fallen; yet you’re standing taller than ever before.
But how is it that so many could fall, yet you be left standing? Psalm 91 continues, “But it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” During the seven last plagues, God will protect those who are faithful to Him, who abide in Him. And how will He do this? “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Angels do more than protect us from physical harm. In fact, I believe God principally sends them to keep us in His will and way. “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.” The lion and serpent here are symbols of the devil, a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8).
This means that you will stand upon a fallen devil. He’s below you when you have God’s protection. When temptations come, by the grace of God, you can be victorious.
Standing With Love, Faith, and Grace
However, one important prerequisite for standing and deliverance promised in Psalm 91 is often missed. “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.” In this case, love isn’t something that just comes spontaneously, like a sudden weather change. Here, love is a choice. And if you make this choice to set your love upon Him, notice what happens: “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.”
And then we read, “Let all that you do be done with love.” Why with love? Because, as 1 Corinthians 13:8 explains, “Love never fails.”
Let’s continue with Psalm 91. What is another important factor for standing in the last days? “I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.” We need to know God. Remember, Jesus declares to the lost, “I don’t know you.” But even more, it says we need to know His name. There is power in the name of the Lord. Do you utilize that power? Do you pray in His name?
“For by faith ye stand” (2 Corinthians 1:24). How do we stand in the last days? By works? No, because anybody who defeats 1,000 people has something more then physical prowess. They need faith! And 1 Corinthians 16:13 adds, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
And 1 Peter 5:12 tells us,“This is the true grace of God wherein ye stand.” We will never fall if we know the Lord and stand in faith, love, and grace.
Standing for the Word
Those who know the Word of God will be left standing. And with this, another unusual Bible battle comes to mind. The Bible speaks of the mighty men of David. In 1 Chronicles 11, it tells about one of the these mighty men named Eleazar and his king David. “There the Philistines were gathered together to battle … and the people fled from before the Philistines. And [Eleazar and David] set themselves in the midst [of a barley field] … and slew the Philistines; and the >Lord saved them by a great deliverance” (vs. 13, 14). In 2 Samuel 23:10, it says of Eleazar, “His hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the >Lord wrought a great victory that day.” Eleazar and David remained, standing back to back, defeating all their attackers, even after their countrymen left. They would not retreat. They took a stand when everyone else fell. And just like Samson, they were left standing. They could only do that because they knew and trusted in God, and the Lord gave them victory.
We are living in a day when many of God’s people are cowering and fleeing before the enemy. They are ridiculed for taking the Word of God too literally. You are considered a zealot if you believe you should follow Christ and keep the commandments.
So you may find a day soon when you stand alone. Will you still stand—through the persecutions to come? The word “standards” comes from “stand”—it means you stand for something. And I’ve got news for you, friend: As we approach the last days, if you don’t stand for something, you’re going to fall for anything. You’ll retreat.
Did you also catch that David and Eleazar took their stand in the midst of a barley field? What is grain a symbol of in the Bible? The Word of God is our bread from heaven. They put their lives on the line to defend a field of grain. They clung to their swords, which are also symbols for God’s Word—which is actually sharper and quicker than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). And in Revelation, Christ is seen with a two-edged sword coming out of His mouth. The edges represent the two witnesses: the New and the Old Testaments. And because Eleazar and David clung to the Word, God fought for them and they were victorious. The same promises belong to us, if we cling to and defend the Word.
Ephesians 6 says that the secret to standing is being armed for spiritual battles with spiritual equipment. “Put on the whole amour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil … that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth … and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (vs. 11, 13, 14, 17).
“Heaven and earth shall pass away,” but the Word of God will not pass away. And Isaiah 40:8 offers an even more solid picture:
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
What is dependable? God’s Word; it is going to stand. So if we stand up for God’s Word, the truth—even though it’s not popular—we’ll be left standing. Some truth that’s accepted today will become increasingly unpopular as time ends. You need to decide now if you’re going to retreat with everybody else or if you’re going to stand, fighting back to back with Jesus, the son of David. He will not ever leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
Standing Before the Son
A wonderful story found in John 8 perfectly illustrates this picture. The religious leaders caught a woman in adultery, and they brought her before Jesus to receive the death decree. With self-righteous indignation, they stood pointing accusing fingers, ready and eager
to snuff out her life under a hail of stones.
They pressed their question, “What do you say?” But He ignored them. Instead, He stooped down and began to sketch in the dust on the temple floor as though they were not there. Then He stood up and said to the woman who was caught in adultery those immortalized words: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
And then Jesus knelt down again and waited. Ashamed and bewildered, the leaders pondered their next move. But soon, they began to see what Jesus was writing in the dust; they saw that He was writing out their very own sins.
After recognizing this, the accusers began crawling away one by one—like cockroaches shaken by the light. “And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest even unto to the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst” (John 8:9).
Her accusers were gone; they fell, but she was face to face with Jesus—standing.
Who Is Worthy to Stand?
How could this woman, which many believe to be Mary Magdalene, stand under those circumstances? She broke the commandments. She was unworthy. But what does Christ say to her? “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” She answers, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus replies, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Christ also said, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36). Notice that Jesus doesn’t say you will be worthy—He says that you will be counted worthy. Mary was guilty of sin, but did He count her guilty? No, He gave her mercy. She stood in grace because He would take her penalty.
Who is going to be left standing? The one who loves the Lord. The ones who have faith and stand in grace. The ones not afraid to stand alone with Jesus—they will be left standing. But you might be thinking, “I fall all the time. How can I know I’ll stand in the end?” Well, Proverbs 24:16 says, “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” Jesus cast seven demons from Mary; she fell into her old patterns several times. But as often as she sincerely repented of it, He genuinely forgave her. The righteous might fall, but they can still stand in the judgment if they have the righteousness of Christ.
So even though you may not be Samson, Eleazar, or David, just remember that they didn’t stand in their own strength. God helped them stand, and He can give you the strength too. Someone once asked Moody if he had enough faith to be tortured for Christ without denying Him. He answered, “Not now I don’t, but when that day comes I trust He’ll give me the strength.” The Lord promises, “As thy days so shall thy strength be” (Deuteronomy 33.25)
Standing on the Rock
Jesus reinforces this truth in His parable about the wise man that builds his house on the rock. It’s not only important to have the right foundation; we need the right materials like faith, hope, and love—materials that He provides us. Will your house stand? By repenting and believing that by Christ’s blood we are innocent, we can be counted worthy for His sake—and be left standing.
We Christians have some trials ahead. The last thing we need is our church becoming complacent during a time when our lamps should be trimmed. And we need to have something genuine; we need to know Him to stand. We need to be able to sing like Jehoshaphat’s choir, singing God’s praises and standing still in His salvation.
Let’s look again in our Bibles. Revelation 14:1 says, “And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount [Zion], and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads.” But if we’re going to be able to stand with Him then, we need to stand in faith now. I want to be among those. How about you? I want to stand before the Lord, clad in His armor and covered by His blood.
There may be some of you who realize that your foundation is made of the wrong stuff and today you’d like to begin building on Christ. So I’d like to end on this last promise, found in
1 Thessalonians 3:8: “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.”