Part 1 – The End of the World
‘What is the world coming to?’ say our elders with a sigh as they look around and see how much ‘society’ has deteriorated since their day. Well, the simple answer is, ‘It’s coming to an end.’ The world is coming to an end.
The End of the World
This is a phrase which is usually relegated to being part of a trite reply to those who have experienced some mishap: ‘Oh, don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world!’ But it is soon to be the end of the world. This world – that is, all things that pertain to the realm of time – is to be brought to an end by the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ, the ushering in of the day of judgment and of eternity.
When he comes everything of this world will be burnt up with fire from heaven, yea, even the elements shall melt with fervent heat, 2 Peter 3:10-12. Nothing will remain but the great mass of humanity – every one who has ever lived – resurrected, souls reunited to their bodies, appearing before the Judge of all the earth, Rev. 20:11-15. And at last on that day every mind will be absolutely concentrated on this one stupendous fact: This is the day of judgement! The man sitting on the throne of judgment is Jesus Christ! And I know what is about to take place!
I read somewhere once that it has been estimated that over the history of mankind upwards of sixty billion – 60,000,000,000 – people have inhabited this planet, and every one of them will appear on that day – including the reader. And what is more, all their names are recorded in heaven: either on the front cover of a book in which is written everything they have ever done, said, thought, or intended to do, say or think; or their names will be found written in a book called ‘the Lamb’s book of life’, which book contains no record of their sins and iniquities, because the cover has been sprinkled with sanctifying, justifying, atoning, and cleansing blood: the blood of the Lamb of God.
Those whose names are found on the cover of their own books will then see them opened to be judged by those things written therein. And as ‘there is none righteous, no, not one’, and as ‘all have sinned’, then this judgment will be a straightforward declaration of guilt and condemnation by the Judge with an immediate dismissal into the place of punishment – the lake of fire. There will be no court case with defence lawyers, no mitigating circumstances considered – like ‘learning difficulties’, ‘diminished responsibility’, ‘disadvantaged upbringing’, and whatever else is used today to justify sin – and there will be no appeals; there will be some desperate pleadings, cp. Matt. 7:22, but all to no avail. No, the day of judgement for these is a day in which the Judge will announce his guilty verdict, and carry out the sentence.
Meanwhile those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will immediately be declared ‘not guilty’ – for the Judge, seeing the blood, passes over them, declaring to have no memory of their sins, Heb. 8:12 – and ushered into the presence of the glory of God, forever to be with the Lord.
All these things godless man rejects. Scoffers who walk after their own lusts are willingly ignorant of the end of the world – and all that pertains to it – and are quite happy to believe that time and the world will go on in perpetuity, 2 Peter 3:3-7. But who cares, and what does it matter what godless men think; these ‘wicked’ shall soon be cut off in their ignorance, pride, arrogance, folly and unbelief, Ps. 37:9-13, for the revealed word of God tells us that the end of the world is a sure occurrence, 2 Peter 3:10-12; and as much as the unbelievers ignore it, so the children of God look for it, hope, watch and long for it; as it is the day of their ultimate salvation – in the fulness of what that means.
Carnal religious men, also, in effect, disannul any real expectation of the end of the world – at least in their own life-time – as they concentrate day by day on ‘the here and now’: on eating and drinking; buying and selling; building and planting; marrying and being given in marriage, etc., on striving to make sure that all things are secure for their lives ahead and ‘for generations to come’. But why shouldn’t the end of the world happen upon this generation? Upon our generation? Why can’t people conceive of the idea that the rising generation could be the last? Because although they may have a doctrinal assent to ‘the end of the world’, they in reality love this world, desire to live long happy lives in it and desire also that their children be given the best possible start in life so that they too can prosper throughout their lives and, hopefully, into retirement.
But it is to be my contention in this article – and it is my expectation – that the end of the world will occur before my natural life is expected to end – and I am now in my early fifties – and that today’s youth need not worry about pensions, etc., for it will be very surprising if they get to old age. And I will immediately give one of my reasons for saying this; which reason I believe the spiritual will not find unconvincing nor scripturally unjustifiable.
At the time of writing it is what the world recognises as the year 2013. But I am not persuaded from scripture that God counts it as 2013, but rather closer to the year 1984. Bear with me, please.
The scriptural account of the creation of the world – and therefore of the beginning of time – has been accurately dated – drawing a time-line using, among other things, the ‘begats’ of Genesis chapters 5 and 11 – to around 4,000 BC. Therefore – forgetting ‘science falsely so called’ – the world has been in existence for about 6,000 years. Now I believe that, although the six days of creation were six literal – 24-hour – days, they also point to the history of time in which God ‘works’ before ‘resting’. We are told in Genesis 2:3 of all God’s work, and nowhere in the account are we led to believe that after one day’s rest he intended to start working again. Genesis 1:31-2:3 speaks of finality regarding the work of God; he was now at rest.
So we can see this creation week as a picture or type of the whole history of the world, of time; in that ‘one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day’, 2 Peter 3:8. Now although that is a phrase which in its context is not necessarily meant to be a literal statement of actual fact, yet it is such an unusual use of language, and is such a striking phrase, that we can justifiably refer to it as a relevant truth when seeking to understand how God – who inhabits eternity – views time.
Therefore I conclude that it is not unreasonable to assert – and that without doing despite to the scriptures – that time could very well be destined to run for six thousand years before its end comes and the eternal ‘day of rest’ is ushered in. But if that is the case then how is it that we have come to 2013 and are still here? Because, as I said, I believe that we are closer to 1984 than 2013 for a counting of years, and therefore our continued existence is not surprising.
How have I come to this? The answer lies in how God reckons the counting of time. This year is counted as ‘the year of our Lord – Anno Domini – 2013’. This is because the years have been counted from the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, that is from his birth. But now it is generally accepted that the Lord was actually born at around what we would call 4BC – possibly as early as 7BC, which would make 2013 nearer to 2017 or even later. But if that is the case then how can we get back to 1984 or thereabouts? The answer lies in Exodus 12:2, which reveals how God counts.
The killing of the Passover was to be for the children of Israel ‘the beginning of months’; for it was to be the ‘salvation’ of the people of God, and the means by which they were released from bondage in Egypt. And, as far as God was concerned, this was a new thing and a new beginning for his people. It is therefore again not unreasonable to conclude that as the Passover was a figure of Christ and his death for the salvation of his people – a releasing them from the bondage of sin and from this world, and a bringing in of the new covenant in his blood – that God actually counts Anno Domini from the death of his Son and not from his birth. If that is the case then we must shorten Anno Domini by approximately thirty-three years – the generally excepted duration of the life of Jesus on earth – making 2017 1984. Therefore the year two thousand is still another sixteen years away – in what we would call 2029.
I must stress though that all these dates are approximate, there can be a margin of error of a few years either way. Therefore I am not making a prediction that ‘The World is Going to End in 2029!’ like some deluded modern day false prophet; but what I am saying – and this I will go on to prove – is that if we simply examine the testimony of scripture regarding the end of all things we must come to the conclusion that the Lord’s return, the end of the world, and the day of judgment is very near – literally; and ‘the signs of the times’ prove it.
Now it is these ‘signs’ which so many today fail to read, notice, or even look for – such is our unwillingness to have the end of the world come and spoil our plans for the future. But the signs of the times are given for us to discern the imminence of the end, and ultimately to cause us to look up when our redemption draweth nigh, Luke 21:25-28. And I believe that the day in which we live – like no other day before us – is the day when these words are at last relevant: their fulfilment being nigh. I wonder how many of my readers read The Times every day but miss ‘the signs of the times’ altogether. But where else do you think the newspaper got its title but from this phrase of the Lord Jesus?
Now it is because we have been given signs ‘of the times’ – a phrase which points to a period of time rather than to a ‘day and hour’ – that we cannot and should not predict a specific date for the end of the world, Matt. 24:36; nevertheless we can say with some certainty that because there is next to nothing left to be fulfilled of Christ’s teaching regarding the state of the world before he comes, then the end must indeed be nigh. Therefore where is our ‘holy conversation and godliness’, and our ‘looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God’? Indeed, are we looking at all for ‘new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness’, or are we more or less content and even desirous to remain dwelling in ‘the world that now is’? 2 Peter 3:11-13, Phil. 3:17-21.
These things ultimately separate the children of God from those whose affection is set on the things of the earth: the inmost desires regarding the coming of the Lord Jesus. Nevertheless it is to ‘the signs of the times’ of the Lord’s coming that we will now turn.
The Signs of the Times
In Matthew chapter 16 we read of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to Jesus to tempt him in asking of him a sign from heaven. In reply Jesus rebuked them for their hypocrisy and for their blindness that, although they could discern the next day’s weather by reading the signs in the sky, yet they could not discern the signs of the times in which they lived.
Here they were, the great leaders of the Jewish religion: supposedly being the custodians of the law, the interpreters of the prophets, and the teachers of the people regarding the coming of Messiah; but when he came they missed the ‘signs’ of his coming altogether. And yet what signs there had been, and how striking it is that none of them were revealed ‘in secret’, as the following examples show:
Firstly there was the strange affair of Zacharias the priest who went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense: ‘and the whole multitude of the people were praying without – outside – at the time of incense’. But when he came out after ‘so long’ a time – much longer than they’d expected – they rightly ‘perceived that he had seen a vision’; but he couldn’t speak of it. In fact he had been told that his long-barren wife was to bear a son who would ‘make ready a people prepared for the Lord’, the very fulfilment of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. And when it all came to pass then ‘fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judæa. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be!’ To which Zacharias immediately replied: ‘Thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins…’, Luke 1. A clear and open ‘sign’.
And then there were the shepherds. The angel of the Lord and ‘a multitude of heavenly hosts’ had appeared to them in the open countryside to declare the birth of ‘a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’ – no mysterious riddle to unravel in that statement. And after they had gone into Bethlehem and seen the babe, we read, ‘and when they had seen, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child’ – that he was the Christ – ‘and all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds’, Luke 2:8-20.
Then some months – even up to two years – later, a star appeared in the heavens, and wise men came to Jerusalem to ask the then king: ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him’, Matt. 2:1-3. At which question not only was the king troubled, but ‘the whole of Jerusalem with him.’ Manifest signs.
Then there were the striking conversations the twelve year old Jesus had had with the doctors – presumably the doctors of the law: eminent men – in the temple itself at Jerusalem: ‘And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers’; not least his ‘parents’ when he spoke to them of ‘being about my Father’s business’, Luke 2:41-51. But then, verse 52, nearly two decades must pass wherein ‘Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’
Until the time came for John the Baptist’s ‘showing unto Israel’, who appeared in the wilderness ‘preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem’ and heard him declare himself to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness who was come to prepare the way of the Lord. Therefore he said that there was one mightier than he who would come after him who, though he, John, baptised them with water, this other one would baptise them with the Holy Ghost, Mark 1. Strange message. Amazing and openly witnessed sign. But not so strange for those who had heard Zacharias’ words at the birth of his son thirty years earlier. If ever there had been a living ‘sign’ – even from his birth – it was John.
And presently there was the fulfilment of John’s testimony: Jesus’ appearing and baptism, with the testimony from heaven: ‘Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased’; not to mention ‘the Holy Ghost descending in a bodily shape like a dove upon him’, Luke 3:21,22. And what about John’s testimony of the Person of him of whom he spoke: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world… and I bare record that this is the Son of God’, John 1:29-34. Again, all these things were done, and unequivocal testimony was given, in the open and clearly seen by all those who, like Simeon and Anna before them, ‘waited for the consolation of Israel’.
Signs? Well, just read Matthew’s gospel, even up until Jesus’ rebuke regarding ‘the signs of the times’; only the blind, or, rather, ‘a wicked and adulterous generation’ could fail to see them. And then read John’s gospel which used the actual word ‘signs’ in relation to Jesus’ appearing, miracles and doctrine: ‘this beginning of [lit.] signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him’, John 2:11, 4:54; ‘And many other signs truly did Jesus…’ John 20:30.
Now, as there were so many signs that accompanied Jesus’ first coming, we must not be surprised to discover that there will be many to herald his Second. Indeed, there are to be many signs – there are many signs in our day – which point to his coming again. But are we to be as blind to these signs as the religious hypocrites were to the former signs? Apparently we are. For if you start discerning the present signs of the Lord Jesus’ imminent coming, and then seek to point them out to most professing Christians, you are likely to get an incredulous rebuff – ‘Well, that’s your opinion.’ No, it’s the signs of the times! And, by the way, they play out one of the signs themselves: they slumber and sleep; have no oil in their vessels with their lamps, and are too occupied with ‘the future’ on earth to be bothered to hear what you have to say – or, rather, what the Lord Jesus had to say. But his coming will take them unawares, cp. Luke 21:29-36, because, ultimately, they love this world, though they have an outward religious lifestyle and some sort of profession of the name of ‘the Lord’: just as those blind to the first signs had.
Nevertheless it is clear that the Lord Jesus taught his disciples to look for the signs of his coming. And, yes, he confirmed to them that there would be an ‘end of the world’; for in explaining to them the parable of the sower he had said, ‘the harvest is the end of the world’, cp. Matt. 13:37-50. Therefore when he was asked by his disciples regarding ‘the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world’, he didn’t rebuke them for their fanciful notions, but immediately answered, confirming and commending their soberness of thought: ‘Take heed that no man deceive you’, Matt. 24:3,4; cp. also verses 5,11.
‘Take heed that no man deceive you’
Therefore we can see straightaway that the whole question of the end of the world can be subject to deceitful and false teaching. But the Lord Jesus, who is ‘the truth’, dismisses any doubts as to what the accumulating signs will be by teaching his disciples what to look for before ‘the end shall come’: notice in verses 6-14 the phrases, ‘but the end is not yet… these are the beginning of sorrows… he that shall endure unto the end… and then shall the end come.’
So Jesus is saying that from then on – from the time of his first coming until his second – there will be stages passed through which will be signs to the spiritual – cp. 1 Cor. 2:14,15 – that the end is getting ever nearer. At the same time the unspiritual will rise up – although religious and even professing Christians – to deceive many with their false prophesy and teaching regarding the end times (or with their lack of teaching regarding the end at all). This of course has been fulfilled to such a degree that there is now an abundance of differing interpretations regarding the whole subject of Christ’s second coming and the end of the world – all supposedly gleaned from scripture – and if one were to be aware of but half of them one must suspect that there is a great deal of falsehood and deception in it all.
Now it is not my intention to look into the various schools of thought regarding these things, but just to try and bring forward something of what the Lord Jesus and his apostles taught without any preconceived ideas of what they must have ‘meant’; and if we do that then we will each be able to examine ‘what we think’ by what the scriptures actually teach. And then, if the Lord opens our understanding to understand the scriptures, we will come into some appreciation of what the truth is.
If we look at Christ’s answer to his disciples’ queries as recorded in Matthew 24 verses 5 to 14 we will get some clear signs which are to be seen. Just read these verses through and see if you recognise in the world today anything of what the Saviour is speaking about.
Firstly he says, ‘For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many’, verse 5. Jesus says that many who come in his name – in Christ’s name – are deceivers. Therefore many ‘Christian’ teachers and preachers are false. Is this a teaching which is consistent with other scriptures and with the history of the new covenant age? It certainly is. If you read through the New Testament you will find many warnings regarding ‘false prophets’, ‘deceitful workers’, ‘false brethren’, and ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven’; though they’d prophesied in his name. It is a sobering fact that the man who stands in your pulpit next Sunday morning is likely a false prophet and therefore unregenerate – and you are commanded to test that assertion for yourself and beware of him, Matt. 7:15, 1 John 4:1.
And what of these who say, ‘I am Christ’? what do they mean by that? Well, ‘Christ’ means ‘anointed’; a Christ is an anointed one. How many ‘anointed ones’ have risen up in the world and in the church – especially in the last two hundred years or so? Countless. Some say they are ‘anointed’ to preach, but are not, for Jesus only is, Luke 4:18. Others say they have had a vision or revelation from God, but have been proved false because they speak error and do not preach ‘the doctrine of Christ’, 2 John 9,10. Some say they have seen visions of angels, or of Jesus, but whose ‘revelations’ and subsequent teachings have been at variance with what the Saviour himself taught.
And then there are those who have called men unto themselves ‘in the desert’, or ‘in the secret chambers’: i.e. apart from the rest: in communes, or perhaps in secret or closed societies where only ‘the chosen ones’ or the ‘initiates’ gather to learn ‘the secret doctrine’. These false Christs might also have attracted their followers with ‘great signs and wonders’, such great works and words apparently so similar to Christ’s doctrine and teaching – with pretty similar affects in those who hear – that even the very elect are in danger of being drawn in and deceived. But the true Christ says, ‘go not forth’ unto them and ‘believe them not, Matt. 24:24-26.
Again, many have come into or out from the midst of the professing church with doctrines which, upon honest interpretation of scripture, are shown to have no foundation in the apostles’ doctrine. Men have risen up to be some great one in the church – in Christ’s name – which have drawn men away after them, and away from the singleness which is in Christ. How many sects, churches and denominations have appeared which in some point or another have deviated from the one true gospel; from the narrow way; from the way of the cross; from the way of faith, into works, or law and bondage, into cunningly devised fables and the traditions of men? Many. Therefore the developers of these sects and propounders of these doctrines who come in the name of Christ must be false.
And how ‘many’ are led astray by it all! Said Jesus, ‘and shall deceive many’. Just look at the most popular types of churches today. In some places and under certain ministries literally hundreds, or even thousands of people gather. And it is more or less a universal verity that the most popular churches in any given town are the modern evangelical type – the bright and breezy, praise and worship type; with their modern Bibles – each one ‘corruptible seed’ – slick contemporary ministries, and plenty going on to feed the flesh; but if you examine the doctrine taught in these places – if any doctrine is taught – you will soon find a great departure from the doctrine of Christ: Arminianism in one form or another underpins them all.
Witness the charismatics, and the faith healers; move to the beat of the bands, the music groups and the modern worship songs: all fleshly religion and very popular with the ‘many’. Observe the adherents to programmes like the Alpha Course, and just see how wayward these places are in their doctrine. But all in the name of Jesus! Unconvinced? When the Alpha Course first came out its own newspaper blatantly and repeatedly described Alpha as ‘Fun and unthreatening, just like our Lord himself’! The question doesn’t really need asking: Which Lord? 1 Cor. 8:5.
But then there is another type of ministry to be wary of. The apostle John warns of those who, although they may come preaching many things which seem to be broadly in accordance with the truth of the gospel: using many scriptural words and phrases; nevertheless they very subtly leave out vital truths in their preaching. In 2 John 7 we read that ‘many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.’ Then there are those who ‘abide not in the doctrine of Christ’, verse 9; and who ‘bring not this doctrine’, verse 10. See how subtle these things are? It’s not what these people say as such, it’s what they don’t say. These ministers’ failure to declare the whole of the doctrine is then called by John ‘evil deeds’; so ‘…receive them not…’ commands the apostle.
Just to be clear: there are many preachers who say many things in the name of Jesus, expounding the scriptures seemingly thoroughly, and even systematically, and yet all the while are imperceptibly side-stepping ‘the doctrine of Christ’. Just go down to your local church, chapel or fellowship and sit under its ministry for the next six months and see if it be not so. (No, don’t; I would spare you that.)
In this category also can be included specialist ‘ministries’ – groups or organisations which have been formed to propagate certain aspects of biblical truth – like Creationist ministries, or Bible Societies, for example; who, although professedly Bible-believing – and even AV-upholding – concentrate so much on their chosen topic that their preaching of the gospel leaves much to be desired; they ‘bring not’ the doctrine of Christ.
The Lord Jesus didn’t begin his reply to his disciples’ questions, then, in an arbitrary manner; immediately he said, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.’ And it has come to pass; and the many do not take heed.
Secondly, the Lord teaches that before his coming again, ‘ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars’, verse 6. That is, there will be actual wars, and you will hear of the threat of wars. One of the great ploys of power seekers is to create circumstances in which the masses either fear war unless drastic measures are taken – usually involving the surrender of sovereignty or ‘liberties’: a rumour of war; or have actually manipulated wars into being so that a new ‘order’ can arise out of the devastation to secure ‘lasting peace’ – the old order necessarily being swept away forever.
Of course we are well aware of the history of this world over the last two hundred years or so to see the fulfilment of this sign. It is interesting also to note that, although the Lord Jesus specifically uses the word ‘war’, which literally means, ‘much destruction’, modern man – inspired no doubt by the prince of the power of the air, who hates the word of God and the words God uses – has substituted that word with many similes: so now we hear of ‘hostilities’, ‘troubles’, ‘conflicts’, ‘campaigns’, etc.; but call them what you will, they are still what Jesus called them: ‘wars’, and they each fulfil his words.
I once heard someone say that there had been only one day in the whole of the Twentieth Century in which there had not been at least one war going on somewhere in the world. Nevertheless ‘see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet come.’ No, nation must rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. As long as there are men in the world who lust after power, or for an overturning of the established order – whether they be known to the general population or not – there will always be a stirring up of strife: agitation; whether it be locally, regionally, or even at times internationally.
Then Jesus teaches that the world will also experience natural troubles as well as manmade ones: ‘and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places’, verse 7. But wait, are famines and pestilences natural occurrences? What is a famine? It is lack of food. But is there not enough food in the world to feed everyone? Apparently there is. I once heard that Britain scrapes eighty million tons of food off its collective dinner plates every year. No, famines are man made; droughts, which can cause famines, are sent by God.
But as Jesus’ words are first and foremost spiritual then famines must be seen in the sense of famines ‘of hearing the words of the Lord’, Amos 8:11. The Lord seems rarely to be speaking in our day; there are many Bibles, much religion, some preaching, an abundance of worship and fellowship, but little hearing. Perhaps never more than in our day is it true that the vast majority of professing Christendom has a name to live, but is dead. It is the worst famine God can send upon a people – silence from heaven. But then what can you expect when countless men who preach today are unsent, and therefore only preach – at best – the killing letter? Therefore almost to a man they preach only what they have learned from ‘flesh and blood’ and not that which they have received by revelation from the Father in heaven. So it is no wonder that true hearing has all but vanished, cp. Rom. 10:13-17.
And what of pestilences. This is a word which can be used to apply to many things. Pestilences can be plagues which God sends, or diseases which arise from man’s sinful activity – or as deliberately introduced into a population. And then what a pestilence false doctrine is! What spiritual destruction ‘another gospel’, ‘another Jesus’ and ‘another spirit’ brings. Nevertheless they must all come about before the end. But although there be earthquakes in divers places – again prevalent in our day – the end is not yet, for ‘all these are [just] the beginning of sorrows’, Matt. 24:8.
Next the Lord Jesus turns his attention away from signs which can, on one level, be seen in the world at large, to speak of the signs that will be seen specifically among his disciples. Verse nine reads, ‘Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.’ The former part of this verse has seen its fulfilment throughout the gospel age: ‘you’, God’s people, have consistently been delivered up, afflicted and killed by the world, especially when overtly godless regimes have held sway – or when the Lord has been doing a mighty work in the earth. Just read Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’. Consider the plight of the reformers and of their brethren and sisters in the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary Tudor – that is, around the time of William Tyndale. How many of the Lord’s people have been put to death under fundamentalist religious governments and secular dictatorships.
But the second part of the verse, ‘and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake’, has not come to pass as yet. Why? Simply because there are still many countries in this world where God’s people are not officially hated by the authorities, and are not as yet being delivered up and afflicted. The time will come when the true children of God will find safety nowhere on earth – among all nations – but the time is not yet. That will be a time when ‘all nations’ will be under some sort of world governing authority, it is forming as we speak, but is not yet fully realised. But more on that later.
It will be, of course, the true children of God that will be hated of all nations, not the false professors. When the time of great world-wide tribulation comes – when all nations will be officially anti-Christian – ‘then shall many’ who now profess Christ ‘be offended, and shall betray one another’ into the hands of the authorities, ‘and shall hate one another’, verse 10. After all, Jesus did say ‘that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service’, John 16:1-3; so these are ‘Christian’ persecutors not secular: but ‘twas ever thus; for Jesus’ greatest enemies were ‘the elders and chief priests and scribes’, cp. Matt. 16:21.
But these worldly conforming ‘Christians’ will not have ceased their profession of Christ; no, they will have imbibed a very much watered down version of his teachings which will have removed all semblance of dogmatism, doctrinal absolutes, or any hint of ‘fundamentalism’ or ‘bigotry’. Why? Because ‘many false prophets shall rise’ – many: a great hoard of them in the churches – ‘and shall deceive many’, verse 11. Many for the many. These false prophets will, by their teaching, adapt the Christian profession into something which can still be practised ‘in the modern world’ without any danger of persecution, affliction or hatred from ‘all nations’. I wonder if the reader can see the seeds of this in the churches already – more than seeds though.
The result of all this – for be assured that the many will, and do, quite happily imbibe this new worldly form of Christianity – will be that ‘the love of many shall wax cold’, verse 12. The love of many regarding what shall wax cold? Regarding the love of the truth; the love of God’s revealed word; the love of the gospel of Christ; the love of the doctrine of the gospel; the love of the strait gate and the narrow way – the way of the cross; the love of the brethren. And what does the Lord Jesus call all this? ‘Iniquity’, verse 12. To hear false prophets, to embrace and believe error, to imbibe the spirit of worldliness in the churches, to save one’s skin under the threat of persecution, to shun the ‘suffering the loss of all things for Christ’, to turn the back on the truth of the gospel, to avoid the offence of the cross, to love and keep one’s life, is called by Christ ‘abounding iniquity’. And it is ‘because iniquity shall abound’ that ‘the love of many shall wax cold’, and by implication die altogether. Yes, many apostates are to be revealed in the last days.
But not all will turn away, for Jesus says that some will endure unto the end, verse 13: ‘But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.’ Notice here how the Saviour does not say ‘but they that shall endure’, but ‘he’ that shall endure. In comparison to the many who will fall away, only a small minority – mere individuals – will endure; that is, they will endure unto death – probably at the hands of their persecutors – or they will endure right the way through the great tribulation until the coming of the Lord – ‘those that are alive and remain’. Again, this is a common thread of teaching running throughout the whole of scripture: ‘few there be that find it.’
One final thing must be fulfilled before the end. Says Jesus, ‘And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come’, verse 14 – again, the end shall come. As long as there are elect souls being born into this world who are to be called by the grace of God under the sound of the gospel, the world will continue. But as soon as the gospel of the kingdom, as preached, has reached the last soul to be brought to a knowledge of salvation under its sound then the end will come. In fact, when all other signs have been fulfilled, and can be readily observed by the spiritual, this one last sign will still be working until that very last soul is called, leaving no other reason for the world and time to continue. Contrary to popular belief this world does only continue for the calling of the elect. Yes, as with the world, worldly Christians will have their eyes fixed on the future in time, and on all the things they are about to do, enjoy or achieve for themselves or ‘for the Lord’, until the day arrives wherein somewhere, in some quiet corner, the Spirit of God applies the salvation of Christ to the very last soul for whom Christ died, and then the world will end.
Now, reader, can you see why everything outside a seeking the salvation of your soul is ultimately vanity and lies ?