On his way to Jerusalem, the apostle Paul made a stop at Ephesus where he called for a special meeting of all the leaders of the church. He told those Ephesian believers solemnly, “This is the last time I’ll see you and this will be my final message to you” (see Acts 20:25).

In his last message to the Ephesians, Paul told them, in essence, “I’ve been with you before and you know what I stand for. I have served you with humility and tears. I’ve preached in your church and from house to house — all under great trials and persecution. And I have kept nothing back from you.”

Then, with tears, he gave them this sober warning, “For three years now I’ve warned you night and day about what I see coming to the church after I’m gone. Now I want you to hear this warning one more time” (see 20:31).

What did Paul see coming? In short, his warnings were not about the chaos going on outside the church doors, but he was grieved over what he saw coming to God’s house. He warned the Ephesians about what was coming upon the ministry, upon shepherds, in particular, at the hands of deceivers who would flood into the church.

“The Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (20:28). In other words, “Bishops, overseers, leaders, feed your flocks and fill them with God’s pure Word. Savage wolves and deceivers are coming and they’re going to take aim at the weak sheep.” Paul’s deep heart-cry was, “Pastors, take heed. Be on guard for yourselves and for your people.”

Paul stated to these men, “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (20:27). What is the whole counsel of God? In short, it includes the tough subjects of Scripture, not just the blessings. It includes the message of godly sorrow over sin, of repentance, of taking up your cross, of self-denial and sacrifice, and separation from the world.

Beloved, as one of the sheep, be sure that you are sitting under the ministry of a true shepherd, not one who just wants to make you feel good. Purpose in your heart to be a servant of God who is fearless, holy and fully prepared be a part of the body of overcomers that rises up in the end times.