September 26, 1999
I have several messages along this line, but this will be the
last one. I deal also with 2 Thessalonians and many more passages,
but I will not today.
I have two purposes behind these two messages.
1) to get you to read the word of God closely. Those who do not pay attention to words and contexts are easily led astray by what ever wind is blowing the hardest.
2) to show that though we seem to live in a seemingly hopelessly wicked generation where everyone seeks his own thing, it is not hopeless. Passages such as Psalms 72 tell us that the whole world one day will be part of the Kingdom of God, and all nations will worship King Jesus.
Matthew 28:19, 20 tells us to Christianize the nations. Psalms 72:8-11 speaks of a day coming when the nations of the world will be Christian; they will be willing followers of the Lamb. There are many such passages, but I will not bore you with them. (E.g., Ps. 22:26ff, 66:1-7, 72, 102, 86, Isa. 2, 66, Zech. 14, &c.)
I had Spurgeon comments on Psalms 89:9 last week. Let me give you his comments on Psalms 72:8, 9 this week:
Ver. 8. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea. Wide spread shall be the rule of Messiah; only the Land's End shall end his territory: to the Ultima Thule shall his sceptre be extended. From Pacific to Atlantic, and from Atlantic to Pacific, he shall be Lord, and the oceans which surround each pole shall be beneath his sway. All other power shall be subordinate to his; no rival nor antagonist shall he know. Men speak of the Emperor of all the Russias, but Jesus shall be Ruler of all mankind. And from the river unto the ends of the earth. Start where you will, by any river you choose, and Messiah's kingdom shall reach on to the utmost bounds of the round world. As Solomon's realm embraced all the land of promise, and left no unconquered margin; so shall the Son of David rule all lands given him in the better covenant, and leave no nation to pine beneath the tyranny of the prince of darkness. We are encouraged by such a passage as this to look for the Saviour's universal reign; whether before or after his personal advent we leave for the discussion of others. In this Psalm, at least, we see a personal monarch, and he is the central figure, the focus of all the glory; not his servant, but himself do we see possessing the dominion and dispensing the government. Personal pronouns referring to our great King are constantly occurring in this Psalm; he has dominion kings fall down before him, and serve him; for he delivers, he spares, he saves, he lives, and daily is he praised. Ver. 9. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him. Unconquered by arms, they shall be subdued by love. Wild and lawless as they have been, they shall gladly wear his easy yoke; then shall their deserts be made glad, yea, they shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.
The common idea is that the world must grow worse and worse. The logical implication of that teaching is that the gospel is powerless, and it is hopeless to think anything different.
The purpose of these messages is to show that the word of God does not teach hopelessness in the midst of a wicked generation.
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.
2 Timothy 3:13, But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
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.
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.
FIRST, Jude 18, How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. Though this verse is out of its Scriptural order, I will place it here due to Clarke's comment:
Verse 18. Mockers in the last time See the notes on 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1, etc.; and particularly 2 Peter 3:2, 3, etc., to which Jude seems to refer. The last time. -- The conclusion of the Jewish polity.
Though Jude probably referred to "the conclusion of the Jewish polity," i.e. civil order, and says there will be mockers in the last time, walking after their own ungodly lusts, he did not say the mockers would take over the world, nor that they would stop nor hinder the spreading of the gospel.
Instead of following the false teachers and corrupt doctrine, Jude called on God's people to remember the warnings of Christ and the apostles, v. 17. He also uses those walking after their own lusts as a motivating factor for Christians to live godly lives. Again, the promises of God are true despite the ungodly's activity -- Jude calls on Christians to have even more determination to reach the ungodly, vv. 22, 23.
SECOND, 2 Peter 2:1, But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. There have always been an abundance of false prophets andteachers among those who are saved by grace through faith. And many have always been willing and anxious to follow them in their destructive ways, but many does not mean all. Nor does Peter say that the false prophets and teachers will be the majority nor that they will take over the church; V. 13, Peter identifies them simply as spots and blemishes among the righteous.
Peter does say that the false teachers in the Gospel Church face sure judgment, just as sure as did the angles who sinned -- the Lord does not promise victory to the ungodly, but he does promise them judgment, v. 13, &c. In fact, the Lord promises that the godly deliverance out of the hands of the ungodly, v. 9.
THIRD, 2 Peter 3:3, Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts... but Peter does not say that the scoffers will prevail. V. 4, Peter goes on to say that the last day scoffers who walk after their own lusts will not void the promises of God. V. 11, Peter calls on God's people to be grow in the knowledge of God's word, and to be holy and godly, particularly in the midst of those walking after their own lusts.
FOURTH, Luke 17:27, They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Luke tells us that the people, in the days of Noah, eat, drank, married wives and were given in marriage. That is, the people in Noah's day, and Lot's, were unconcerned about anything except the daily matters and pleasures of life, despite the many warnings of impending judgment.
Last night we had kind of an informal class get-together. There were only 46 in our graduating class. Out of the 9 who were there last night, at least 5 were committed Christians -- I am a pastor and two other men are lay preachers, and two of the ladies are committed Christians.
One of the men who is now a lay preacher is with his SIXTH WIFE. He made it clear that he was married FIVE TIMES as an unsaved man. And the Lord alone made the difference. He is the one who called from Virginia saying that he was going to be in the area, and wanted to have dinner with the rest of the class who could make it.
Luke's statement in v. 27, and likewise Lot, v. 28, is many times used to say that people will "grow worse and worse" as time progresses. And thus society will come to the point that the same ratio of godly to the ungodly as was present with Noah and Lot will be prevalent at the end of the world.
But that is not what Luke says. Note the context: V. 25, Luke is giving his version of the same warning the Lord gave in Matthew 24:37-39. Christ was telling of the coming destruction upon the generation that put him to death. Christ was speaking of the soon-coming and sudden destruction of Jerusalem. The Lord waited for a generation, i.e., forty years (Mk. 14:61, 62), before he sent his army, Rome, against the wicked city that killed the Son, Matthew 21:33-46. He gave the wicked abundant opportunity to repent. (My study in Mat. 24 deals with all this, so I will not here.) Many did repent, Acts 2:22-41.
"[Lk. 17:26] so shall it be also in the days of the son of man; some time before, and at his coming in power, and great glory, to destroy the Jews, their nation, city, and temple; and as then, so it will be when he shall come in person, at the last day, to destroy the world: the times of Noah's flood, of Jerusalem's destruction, and of the end of the world, bear a great resemblance to each other: and when the son of man comes in either of these senses, then will the kingdom of God come; or then will it appear that the Messiah is come, and has took to himself his great power, and reigns." (John Gill.)
Though Luke describes the attitude of the Jews before the destruction of their cities, what he describes also speaks of men's attitudes throughout history. From the inception of the Gospel Church, societies general attitude toward the Lord has risen and fallen between loving God and loving self and pleasure.
However, when many take the general attitude spoken of in Noah's and Lot's time into the present, they say that the world must grow worse and worse, and it will be as it was in Noah's and Lot's time. But that is not what Luke says. Luke was speaking specifically of the Jew's attitude when the Lord came back in judgment as he promised to do in Mark 14:61, 62.
FIFTH, 1 John 2:18, Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. An antichrist is anyone who is an adversary of the Messiah. Many is a restricted number. It does not say that these antichrists are going to take over the world. In fact, John goes on to tell Christians that they can be victorious despite the antichrists.
The date of John's writing is impossible to establish, though his warnings fit in well with Christ's in Matthew 24.
Matthew Henry comments on 1 John 2:18:
"2.They were foretold also as the sign of this last time. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect, #Mt 24:24. And these were the forerunners of the dissolution of the Jewish state, nation, and religion: Whereby we know it is the last time, #1Jo 2:18. Let the prediction that we see there has been of seducers arising in the Christian world fortify us against their seduction."
Adam Clarke comments:
"Verse 18. Little children, it is the last time This place is variously understood. This is the last dispensation of grace and mercy to mankind; the present age is the conclusion of the Jewish state, as the temple and holy city are shortly to be destroyed. But as there are many who suppose that this epistle was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, consequently the words cannot, on that supposition, refer to this. Others think that escath wra should be translated, a most difficult, perilous, and wretched time; a time in which all kinds of vices, heresies, and pollutions shall have their full reign; that time which our Lord predicted, Matthew 7:15, when he said, Beware of false prophets. And Matthew 24:11, 12: Many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many; and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. And Matthew 24:24: There shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders. And Matthew 24:25: Behold, I have told you before. Now the apostle may allude to these predictions of our Lord; but all these refer to a time antecedent to the destruction of Jerusalem. I am therefore inclined to think, whatever may be here the precise meaning of the last time, that the epistle before us was written while Jerusalem yet stood. See what is said in the preface on this head. Antichrist shall come Who is this anticristov antichrist? Is he the Emperor Domitian, the Gnostics, Nicolaitans, Nazareans, Cerinthians, Romish pontiffs, etc., etc.! Ans. Any person, thing, doctrine, system of religion, polity, etc., which is opposed to Christ, and to the spirit and spread of his Gospel, is antichrist. We need not look for this imaginary being in any of the above exclusively. Even Protestantism may have its antichrist as well as Popery. Every man who opposes the spirit of the Gospel, and every teacher and writer who endeavors to lower the Gospel standard to the spirit and taste of the world, is a genuine antichrist, no matter where or among whom he is found. The heresies which sprang up in the days of St. John were the antichrist of that time. As there has been a succession of oppositions to Christianity in its spirit and spread through every age since its promulgation in the world, so there has been a succession of antichrists. We may bring this matter much lower; every enemy of Christ, every one who opposes his reign in the world, in others, or in himself, is an antichrist; and consequently every wicked man is an antichrist. But the name has been generally applied to whatever person or thing systematically opposes Christ and his religion. Many antichrists Many false prophets, false Messiahs, heretics, and corrupters of the truth. Whereby we know that it is the last time That time which our Lord has predicted, and of which he has warned us." (Clarke's Commentary, 1 John.)
Last days..., many antichrists.
John's words seem to apply particularly to the quickly approaching end of the Jewish, or Hebrew, social order, 70 AD. He was, accordingly, writing to people who were in the last days of that order. Christ himself, speaking before the end of the Hebrew social order, warned against those who would come in his name, giving people false assurance. Those false prophets - promising peace, safety and deliverance - were common in Jerusalem, even after Rome had the city surrounded. John's warning of many antichristsconcerned the rise of the false prophets promising peace and safety.
But the warning of the many antichrists goes much further than John's day. The Lord warned of the false prophets, i.e., antichrists, in sheep's clothes, as did Paul in Acts 20:29-31. The problem was a serious problem for the church from the very beginning, and will continue to be a problem until the end. Soantichrist does not speak of an individual man, but the word refers to any person or system that opposes the true Christian religion. Accordingly, not only is the Papal system antichrist, but so is the Protestant system of "pray this prayer" for salvation. The last days started with Christ, the foundation of the Gospel Church, and will last until the end.
But the name (antichrist, ed.) has been generally applied to whatever person or thing systematically opposes Christ and his religion.
SIXTH, Matthew 24:14, and then shall the end come. No doubt the most common, well known passage and misused passages among Christians is Matthew 24. Many who are convinced that Christianity is defeated in this present "dispensation" flee to Matthew chapter 24 to prove their point.
But the end spoken of by the Lord in v. 14 is the end of the Jewish dispensation.
2 Timothy 3:1, This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. These last days Paul warned Timothy of are not the last days of the Jewish dispensation.
Matthew 24 spoke of the soon coming destruction of the Jewish economy, 70 AD. I will not go into that at this point, for I have a very lengthy study on this point. However, notice an oft overlooked point, vv. 11, 12, many false prophets..., deceive many, and the love of many. (Many, a large but indefinite number. Certainly not most, nor all.) It does not say all, nor does it promise victory to the false prophets nor to the ungodly. V. 31, continuing through the text, we find that God promises victory to the faithful. He does not promise victory to the ungodly.
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