Title & Purpose

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand, Joel 2:1.


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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Purpose and Success of Evangelism as the Return of Christ Draws Nearer

This topic is suggested by the different tone that we find in two types of Scripture verses. On one hand there are verses which speak of the spread of the knowledge of Christ. On the other hand there are verses which speak of the end time apostasy developing and only a remnant testimony being found in the earth when Christ returns. These types of verses would seem to be, and in reality are, incompatible with one another.

How on one hand can the Scriptures teach that: For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts, Malachi 1:11; and yet at the same time the Scriptures teach that a great apostasy will be taking place; the love of many will wax cold; professing Christendom will be like a field mixed with worthless tares; multiple false prophets will be deceiving many; evil men will wax worse and worse; there will no ear for sound doctrine, rather a believing of fables; scoffers will abound; all of professing Christianity slumbers and sleeps and the Saviour laments whether there will be faith on the earth when He returns? These verses are simply not compatible!
Examples of these two types of verses are as follows:

This brings us to address how we are to understand the purpose and success of evangelism prior to the coming of the Lord:

1. The Gospel is to be preached in all the world at the command of Christ, And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, Mark 16:15.

2. The Gospel is to be preached in all the world because there is a people scattered throughout all the world that were given to Christ in the Covenant of Grace and they must be infallibly brought to Christ, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth, Colossians 1:5,6; And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2:2; And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, 1 John 4:14.

3. The Gospel is to preached in all the world for a witness unto every nation, 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, Matthew 24:14; Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.

4. The Gospel is to be preached in all the world as a chastisement and rebuke to the Jews, So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me, Romans 10:18-20.

5. The primary purpose of the preaching of the Gospel is to 'gather out' this redeemed people from the teaming masses of humanity across the whole earth. This is implied in the term 'Church'. The Greek word translated 'Church' come from two words and when joined together they mean 'called out'. The 'Church' therefore consists of the 'called out ones'. This implies that there will be a large group left behind who are not 'called out' and who remain implacably opposed to Jesus Christ and His Church and His Gospel. To this the words of James agree at the Council of Jerusalem: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to 'take out of them' a people for his name, Acts 15:14.

6. The Bible never teaches that the whole world, or even a substantial part of it, will ever be converted to Christ through the preaching of the Gospel. This idea is contrary to the plain language of Scripture. This conversion of a substantial part of the world has never happened and it never will happen prior to Christ's coming. The Christianising of the world is not going to come about by the activity of the Church preaching the Gospel in this age.

7. At no time are we to understand that this gathering out of an elect people will result in the whole earth being filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea, Habakkuk 2:14; nor are we to believe this 'gathering out' is the fulfillment of the Lord's name being great among the Gentiles: from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, Malachi 1:11.

8. Sadly the cause of Christ is going to be generally at a low ebb when He returns. As taught repeatedly in the Scriptures, and clearly illustrated in the parable of the ten virgins, the whole professing church will be asleep, cf. Matthew 25:5. This applies not only to those who are unregenerated, ie. those with no oil in their lamps, but also to those who are truly the Lord's, ie. those with oil in their lamps. The true people of God will be characterised by a spirit of spiritual slumber. Worldliness, lethargy and a resistance of sound doctrine will be rife in the Church. There is a need for the professing Church of Jesus Christ to be called to awake and prepare itself for the coming of the Saviour, And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him, Matthew 25:6.

As the Lord's return approaches a great tide of evil will swamp the earth generally, and in particular the Roman or prophetic earth, to the extent that a gospel witness will be largely driven out of this particular part of the world and the believing people of God will be mainly found outside this area, Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ, Revelation 12:12-17.

The Saviour in Luke 18:8 makes a most startling statement: I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? J C Ryle makes the following observation upon these words: Our Lord teaches that there will be comparatively few true believers upon the earth when He comes again. True faith will be found as rare as it was in the days of Noah, when only eight persons entered the ark, and in the days of Lot, when only four persons left Sodom. He is speaking, we must remember, in close connection with the account of the second advent, and His own vivid comparison of the days of Noah and Lot, with the day when the Son of man shall be revealed.

It is interesting to also notice the observation that Dr David Brown, in the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, makes on this same text: Yet ere the Son of man comes to redress the wrongs of His Church, so low will the hope of relief sink, through the length of the delay, that one will be fain to ask, Will He find any faith of a coming avenger left on the earth? From this we learn: 
(1) That the primary and historical reference of this parable is to the Church in its widowed, desolate, oppressed, defenseless condition during the present absence of her Lord in the heavens; 
(2) That in these circumstances importunate, persevering prayer for deliverance is the Church's fitting exercise; 
(3) That notwithstanding every encouragement to this, so long will the answer be delayed, while the need of relief continues the same, and all hope of deliverance will have nearly died out, and "faith" of Christ's coming scarcely to be found. But the application of the parable to prayer in general is so obvious as to have nearly hidden its more direct reference, and so precious that one cannot allow it to disappear in any public and historical interpretation

9. The subjugation of this world to Christ, and the spread of the knowledge of God, will come about by the direct intervention of Christ when He comes the second time. It is only then, at His return, that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever, Rev 11:15. It is at this time that all those extensive promises about the earth being covered with the knowledge of the Lord and the Lord's name being great among the Gentiles, will come to pass. Otherwise we end up holding to contradictory propositions!

10. It is surely a travesty of Scripture interpretation to teach otherwise. To teach that with faith barely present in the earth, prior to Christ's coming, that this is somehow the whole earth being filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea, and the fulfillment of the Lord's name being great among the Gentiles, from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same is inconsistent interpretation.

The Church of Jesus Christ needs to face up to this reality today. There is no point giving false hope to believers about a bright future where there shall be an extensive spread of the gospel as we near the return of Christ. This is not going to happen. The Lord is indeed going to infallibly 'gather out' His elect from across the world but that people will be a little flock. They always have been, ever since the world began. Many may profess to follow Christ, many may be baptised but true believers are few in number, Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it, Matthew 7:14. We need to understand the purpose and extent of evangelism today. We are engaged in 'gathering out' that people from whom Christ has died. The conversion of the world and the spread of the knowledge of God across the earth as the waters cover the seas must wait until He comes!  

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

How can one be sure that they really are one of the elect?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Anonymous

Go to this website - www.sermonaudio.com/source_detail.asp?sourceid=newtownabbeyfpc

Scroll down a little and you will see how to send me a private email. I will reply to your query offline in this way.

Brian McClung