September 18, 1999
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What the Bible Does Not Say, II

Psalms 89:9


I have not really preached any "prophetic" messages since I have been here. So I guess you could call these few messages my effort at "prophecy."

Even Bible teachers will at times read a passage very superficially, and make a passage say something it does not say, or make the passage fit in a particular mold of what they might want it to say.

2 Timothy 3, brought this point to mind, along with some more texts. We covered one text last Sunday, and this Sunday we will cover some more.

It seems to me that the most misused passages are passages defined as "prophetic." And we are hearing many men use these passages today to say that the end in near, and that the Lord will return very shortly.

ILLUSTRATION - I was informed that a group of men discovered last July 4th from studying secret number codes in Scripture that the Lord was coming back 9/9-11/99. I guess we missed him.

Now, the Lord is coming back, but when? I am looking for him, but I have no idea when, and I dare not speculate. But I can say that many "prophetic" passages being used to teach some things do not say what they are being used to teach.

There are many passages misused today to say that the world must grow worse and worse until there is no more hope, until the Lord must finally personally intervene. The theory goes that he must intervene because man is a hopeless mess. And of course, the speakers plead for money. But this theory is not new; it has been around for several years. C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) commented:

Psalms 89:9 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.

Ver. 9. All nations whom thou hast made, and these include all mankind, since they all come of the first Adam--thy creature, and their lives are all distinct creations of thine omnipotence. All these shall come with penitent hearts, in thine own way, to thine own self, and worship before thee, O Lord. Because thou art thus above all gods, the people who have been so long deceived shall at last discover thy greatness, and shall render thee the worship which is thy due: thou hast created them all, and unto thee shall they all yield homage. This was David's reason for resorting to the Lord in trouble, for he felt that one day all men would acknowledge the Lord to be the only God. It makes us content to be in the minority today, when we are sure that the majority will be with us tomorrow, ay, and that the truth will one day be carried unanimously and heartily. David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensation will wind up with general darkness, and idolatry. Earth's sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed. Not so do we expect, but we look for day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, and shall glorify thy name. The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions, and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God, nor inspires the church with ardour. Far hence be it driven. (C.H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David.)

In order to support "the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensation will wind up with general darkness, and idolatry," people make some verses say things they do not say.
Let us examine some of those verses today.

FIRST, 2 Timothy 3:1, This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

While considering this passage, it dawned on me that it does not say what is generally accepted. And then several others came to mind. This verse implies that corruption and godliness will peak just at the point of Christ returns. However, the corruptions described by these passages are not unique to any particular time in history, for they have been common since the close of Apostolic age. Writing about 400 AD, Theodoret said,

I think that it was our time which is here predicted. For our life is full of these evils ; and while we bear about us an aspect of piety, it is the image of wickedness which we produce by our woks. (Quoted by Patrick Fairbairn, Pastoral Epistles, 363. T & T Clark, Edinburgh, 1874. Klock & Klock, 1980 Reprint.)

The typical teaching of this verse, and several others we will look at, goes something like this:

1) The Lord has turned the world completely over to the wicked one.2) The Lord restricted his workings during the Gospel Church age to only his indwelling Spirit of Grace influencing men to follow him into righteousness in face of the surrounding evil temptations.3) The choice is left up to man, and though influenced by the Spirit, man generally follows after evil.4) The result is that the world continues to worsen until the Lord himself must come straighten out the mess.

The logical conclusion is that because it is prophesied that only wickedness and evil will prevail in the world, Christians are left with no hope of seeing their areas of influence "Christianized."

But what does 2 Timothy 3:1 NOT say?

Though it says that perilous times shall come, it does not say that perilous times shall take control of the whole world. About 400 AD, Theodoret claimed that Paul was speaking of his day. And we are 1600 years latter.

Consider:

Perilous simply means difficult times.

Last days... Hebrews 1:2 tells us that this term refers to the time between the FIRST to the SECOND advent of Christ. ADVENT means coming. Last days, therefore, means the last period of time, lasting until there will be time no longer (Rev. 10:6). So far, the last days have lasted 2000 years.

The difficult times that fall upon those who want to please the Heavenly Father are not a recent invention of the last 2000 years. When you meet them, ask Adam, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, David or even Christ himself if it was difficult to follow the Father's will by faith. Even Christ had to keep his human nature under control as it wanted to avoid the perilous time of the cross? (Nevertheless not my will, but thine be done. Lk. 22:42.)

Common sense tells us that Paul's warning in chapter 3 is a general warning -- he does not say that all men will be given over to all these lusts at the same time. If such a thing should happen, society would soon vanish.

Paul's warning here of the difficult times that will result as people give themselves over to the spirit of self love. Then he defines the various evils that result from that self love. These various evils will rise and fall according to the progress of the gospel of Christ. As I mentioned last time, Paul is primarily warning of self love in "Christian leaders."

One of my favorite authors, Patrick Fairbairn (published in 1874), identified the spirit of self love at least as virtual atheism, if not openly professed atheism. Virtual means in almost every respect, or essentially the same.

In other words, though the individual may not profess to be an atheist, he acts and thinks like one. The atheist holds mankind in contempt as he seeks his own pleasure. And the pleasure desired by the Christian atheist may be his exaltation in Christian circles. Fairbairn lays the blame for the French Revolution upon the prevalence of the self love spirit among Christian leaders. (The French Revolution changed the world for the worse. It was a direct against the Christian foundation for Western Society.) Fairbairn said that the same "disregard of Christian verities" (truths) is again at work, and,

[I]t can scarcely be said to be beyond the bounds of probability that "the last days" of the present dispensation are destined to witness, in certain quarters, a realization of the prophetic picture before us (2 Tim. 3, ed.) more appalling than has yet been exhibited in the history of the past. (The Pastoral Epistles,365, 366.)

In other words, the prevalence of self love in a social order led to the War Between the States, as well as two World Wars. The prevalence of self love has led to a great many smaller conflicts, e.g., Vietnam, Kosovo, and the many wars going on even today.

Though Paul, vv. 2-5, paints a very bleak picture of the results of self love, he does not say that the self loving individuals will prevail, v. 9, But they shall proceed no further...

Vv. 10, 11, then Paul reminds Timothy of his holy walk in this world, including his physical persecutions.

2 Timothy 3:1, This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

This verse does not say that perilous times will take over the world; it says simply that perilous times will come. They came, and they have been here for 2000 years, and they will remain as long as there is a sinful nature in the world -- that is, until the end.

(We dealt with v. 12 last time.)

SECOND, 2 Timothy 3:13, But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

The context requires that these evil seducers are leaders in the Christian community. Note what this verse does not say. This verse does not say that the evil world shall wax worse and worse; rather, it says men. As time progresses, evil men and seducers in the Christian community will increase in their abilities to gain "gold, glory and gals," and will become more bold in their evil.

Nor does this verse say that the seducers will increase their following to where the majority of the world follows them.

Notice Paul's answer for the evil self love and its results of vv. 1-12: Vv. 14-17, knowing and following sound Old Testament doctrine and godly living.

THIRD, 1 Timothy 4:1, Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils...

Notice what this verse did not say. It did not say ALL ; rather, he said some - more than two or three, and more than a few. But it is a small, unidentified number. Some is not as large as many.

Latter times - are the times immediately following the Apostles, for the falling away from the true Christian doctrine had already started. (See JFB. See also 1 John.)

Giving heed to seducing spirits and teachings of demons. In 1874, Fairbairn gives this understanding for v. 1:

Ample proof, indeed, exists, and was produced by Mede (Works, p. 623), of the extensive prevalence of demonolatry in apostolic times outside the Christian church, under the forms of saint and martyr worship, exorcisms, incantations, and superstitious wrestlings with particular representatives of the demon world. But there is no evidence of that specific form of corruption being here in the eye of the apostle. The particular kinds of evil mentioned by him have no proper affinity with it; they belong to the sphere of ordinary life, and were such as spring from a false but aspiring asceticism, aiming at higher degrees of mortification and self-denial than consisted with the principles of the gospel." (The Pastoral Epistles, 169, 170.)

Though the worship of demons was common in Paul's day, Paul is not warning against worshiping demons, nor of the increase of open witchcraft. Paul is warning against the doctrines of seducing spirits. The context, vv. 3-5, identifies the doctrines as desiring to be more "spiritual" than is required by God's word.

There are a great many examples of this desire in the church today, e.g., the doctrine of total abstinence. I personally believe total abstinence is wise, but unprovable from God's word. Paul defines that desire to be more "holy" than is required by God's word as doctrines of devils. The "more spiritual" doctrine was followed by the Pharisees of Christ's day.

All the older commentators say that Rome's forbidding to marry and her worship of idols fits well within Paul's warning, e.g., Matthew Henry, John Gill, JFB.

Paul's answer to the evils of vv. 1-3 again is sound Old Testament doctrine, which must be meditated upon, and godly living, 1 Timothy 4:6-16.

There are many passages used today to say that we are living in an hopeless situation. I am pointing out these misunderstandings to show that we do not live in a hopeless situation.

David, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. (Psalms 89:9.

Ver. 9. All nations whom thou hast made, and these include all mankind, since they all come of the first Adam--thy creature, and their lives are all distinct creations of thine omnipotence. All these shall come with penitent hearts, in thine own way, to thine own self, and worship before thee, O Lord. Because thou art thus above all gods, the people who have been so long deceived shall at last discover thy greatness, and shall render thee the worship which is thy due: thou hast created them all, and unto thee shall they all yield homage. This was David's reason for resorting to the Lord in trouble, for he felt that one day all men would acknowledge the Lord to be the only God. It makes us content to be in the minority today, when we are sure that the majority will be with us tomorrow, ay, and that the truth will one day be carried unanimously and heartily. David was not a believer in the theory that the world will grow worse and worse, and that the dispensation will wind up with general darkness, and idolatry. Earth's sun is to go down amid tenfold night if some of our prophetic brethren are to be believed. Not so do we expect, but we look for day when the dwellers in all lands shall learn righteousness, shall trust in the Saviour, shall worship thee alone, O God, and shall glorify thy name. The modern notion has greatly damped the zeal of the church for missions, and the sooner it is shown to be unscriptural the better for the cause of God. It neither consorts with prophecy, honours God, nor inspires the church with ardour. Far hence be it driven. (C.H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David.)

In other words, we must pray, work and speak up with the confidence that even the most hardened sinner will come and worship before the Lord God.

Was that promise nullified by Adam's fall, or was that promise given after Adam fell?

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