4. The Rapture: The Signs of His Coming, Part Two - The Condition of the Professing Church (Revelation 17)Related Media
This article is a lightly edited transcript of Dr. McRae’s audio message on the Rapture. Appreciation for the transcription work goes to Marilyn Fine.
This morning we conclude our study on the Rapture. This is our fourth and last message in our series on the Rapture of the Church. Next Sunday morning we shall be beginning a three-week series on the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is the event that immediately follows the Rapture of the Church as far as the believers are concerned.
Last week, if you were with us, you will recall that we looked at the world’s horizons through the telescope of the sure word of prophecy and were constrained to conclude that the coming of the Lord draws very, very near. We read the daily headlines through the prophetic word and observed that the statehood of the Nation of Israel, the profusion of wars, the threat of famine, the presence of earthquakes, the spread of the gospel, the increase of iniquity and the control of our economy all indicate that the coming of the Lord is very, very near. In all, throughout the scriptures, the apostles, our Lord Jesus, and the Old Testament prophets have given us well over 20 signs to observe. The striking thing is that each one of those signs is in a state of fulfillment today.
This morning what we would like to do is to focus the spotlight on one further sign. It is so obvious and so significant that in my estimation it stands second only to the statehood of the National of Israel as indicating that we are on the threshold of the Rapture of the Church and that the coming of the Lord is very, very near. That sign is the condition of the professing church today. In Revelation 17 and 18, we have depicted for us the condition of the professing church in the midst of the Tribulation Period. The question before us as we approach these chapters this morning is this: how far removed from the condition of the professing church in the Tribulation Period is the condition of the professing church today?
I think we shall notice that as we look at the professing church in American and around the world today we shall conclude that we are drawing very, very close to the condition that shall prevail in the professing church in the early days of the Tribulation Period. Thus, we conclude once again that we have a very direct sign indicating that we are rapidly approaching the conclusion of the Church Age, the Rapture of the Church, and the Tribulation Period which shall immediately follow.
As we read a few of these verses from Revelation 17 watch for the characteristics of the professing church in the Tribulation Period. In this passage, she, the Church, is represented by a harlot whose name is Babylon. This is a symbolic representation of the false church, the professing church, in the Tribulation Period. Revelation 17:1-7 reads,
And there came one of the seven angels who had seven bowls and talked with me saying unto me, “Come here. I will show unto thee the judgment of the great harlot that sitteth upon many waters with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication and the inhabitants of the earth have made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So, he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and 10 horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color and bedecked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. Upon her forehead was a name written, “Mystery, Babylon the great, the Mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” And, I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints.” (Rev. 17:1-6a)
This is a very striking thing that I am not going to have time to fully develop this morning. It is very striking that in the day and age when tolerance is the going thing in the professing church that there is also a very direct strain of intolerance. Professing Christendom today is intolerant of Christians who are intolerant of their position. That shall exactly prevail in the Tribulation Period when this professing church shall be intolerant of believers and of those who are faithful to the Lord Jesus. It is evident in verse 6 the intolerance of tolerant-professing Christendom:
And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And, when I saw her, I wondered with great wonder. And the angel said unto me, “Why doest thou wonder. I will tell thee the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carryeth her.” (Rev. 17:6-7a)
In the next few verses, the angel interprets the significance of the beast. If you will move with me down to verse 15, he gives to us the interpretation of the woman. In Revelation 17:15-16 read,
And he said unto me the waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. The ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the harlot and shall make her desolate and naked and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
Verses 16 through 18 represent the destruction of the professing church in the middle of the tribulation period. You will notice that the destruction of that professing church comes about through the instrumentality of the beast and his under kings. They shall be used by God to destroy the professing church. This in turn will give room for the worship of the beast who shall establish his image. Thus the worship of the anti-Christ shall prevail. That is what is presented in verse 17 where we read,
For God hath put in their hearts [they shall do it against their will]to fulfill His will and to agree and give their kingdom unto the beast until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And, the woman who thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”
Now it is not our purpose this morning to go through chapter 17 and to expound this in an expository sermon. Rather, as approaching it topically, what we should like to see are several very distinct features of the professing church in the Tribulation Period. Then we will try to superimpose upon this situation the conditions of the professing church in 1971. From that we will try to conclude how close we perhaps may be coming to the conclusion of this period of time and of how close we are to the conditions that will exist in the Tribulation Period.
So, as we look at Revelation 17, there are going to be three primary features of the professing church in the Tribulation Period that shall attract our attention.
Three Primary Features Of The Professing Church In The Tribulation Periods
1. The Unity And Universality Of The Professing Church
The very first one is the unity and the universality of this professing church. Now I think that that first of all this is implied in the name, Babylon, in verse 5. This professing church is called by the name, “Babylon,” wherein we read in verse 5,
“And upon her forehead was a name written, mystery Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.”
In interpreting the scriptures, there is a law that is called “The Law of First Mention.” The Law of First Mention simply teaches that in the first mention of a subject in the Bible the matter is presented to us in germ form. In subsequent references to that subject through the Bible further details are given to us and further information is given to us in relation to that subject.
The first reference to Babylon in the Bible is in Genesis 11 at the Tower of Babel. Babel is the mother of Babylon. The Tower of Babel is a story with which many of us will be familiar. If you happen to turn to Genesis 11, you would discover that that incident is also characterized by the two elements of universality and unity. In Genesis 11:1, we read that what took place at that moment in history was for all of the inhabitants of the earth. It was a universal movement. In verse 4 we read that it was motivated by a desire to unify the peoples, lest, says Moses in recording it, “lest we be separated.” So in its germ form Babylon in Genesis 11 is characterized by universality and by unity.
Babylon, in its final form in Revelation 17 within the Tribulation Period, shall be a counterfeit, false religious system that is in opposition to God collectively. It will be characterized by universality and unity. Now, I think this is clearly stated for us in our passage, as well. Although we did not read it, just slip over to Revelation 18:3 where we have further reference to this Babylon. There we read,
For all nations have drunk of the wine of her fornication and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her and the merchants of the earth are grown rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
If you will turn back to Revelation 17:1, the universality again is brought before us when we read at the end of verse 1 that this great harlot “sitteth upon many waters.” We have already noticed in verse 15 that those many waters represent peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. Now, the picture in chapter 17 then is very simply this: there is going to be in the Tribulation Period a religious system that shall prevail across the face of the earth. One of the features of this religious system will be that it will be a universal religious system. This woman sits upon many waters and she encompasses all of the nations of the earth, all of the multitudes, all of the nations, and all of the peoples. There will be an element of unity that will characterize this universal religious system. It is mentioned for us in Revelation 17:13 where we read,
These have one mind and shall give their power and strength unto the beast who will be the support of this woman.
So, in the Tribulation Period the religious system, the professing church shall be characterized by universality and unity. Now, what we can expect then, as we approach the Tribulation Period, is a growing fusion of religion toward a universal church that will encompass all nations, all multitudes and all peoples. This is the full bloom of the ecumenical movement of 1971. The word ecumenical comes from the Greek work which is translated 14 out of its 15 times in the New Testament “world.” The ecumenical movement is the movement for a world-wide church. It is the movement toward the establishment of one church that shall encompass all of the multitudes, all of the nations, and all of the peoples of the world. That movement shall be successful. The full bloom of that movement will be seen in this professing church in the Tribulation Period.
It was about the early part of the 20th century that church men across America and around the world became disillusioned with the splintered condition of Christendom. They began to be conscious of all of the disadvantages of the divisions within Christendom. That motivated what you and I have seen taking place during the last two or three decades. The joining up of denominations and the amalgamation of denominations toward breaking down the divisions that exist within Christendom. The striking thing is that as the movement has developed through the 20th century, it has reached out its tentacles to encompass not just denominations within Christendom but now the religions of the world at large.
Arnold Toynbee, the eminent British historian, in a lecture given at the University of Minnesota not too long ago spoke of the great necessity of the establishment of a single family and said that this was the only hope of survival in the world now that man has annihilated distance and has invented the atomic bomb. He said the alternative is mass suicide. The only alternative to the destruction of the human race is a world-wide social fusion of all the tribes, nations, civilizations and religions of man. We are taking giant steps toward the accomplishment of this very thing. In March 1971 in Beirut, Lebanon, the very first movement of the World Council of Churches toward the realization of this took place. For many years now, dialog has existed between the World Council of Churches, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and so on. However, it was in March of 1971 under the initiation of the World Council of Churches that the first dialogue took place between the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, and the World Council of Churches. We are seeing that this is a giant step toward the realization of what shall take place in the Tribulation Period in Revelation 17.
The Government of Israel, the Jewish National Fund, has already designated a place in the southern part of Jerusalem for the erection of a building that they are going to call the House of the Bible. In this building, there will be a one million volume library and all of the artifacts and manuscripts that are available. The building will be dedicated to the study of the things related to the Bible by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. One could multiply illustrations in this fashion to demonstrate that you and I are seeing taking place about us today a movement that is taking giant steps toward the realization of a world-wide church. A church that shall encompass all denominations and all religions. It will be the full-bloom of the ecumenical movement about us today and that full-bloom is demonstrated in Revelation 17.
As I look at what is taking place to date, and read about it in our church magazines, and listen to it on our news broadcasts, and read it in our newspapers I see that the headlines are screeching the news that we are moving very quickly toward the realization of this situation. This world-wide church shall surely be reached as most churchmen in American and around the world are dedicating their lives to accomplish it. Be well assured of this fact though, my Christian friend, that before that is attained the Church shall be raptured. The Church shall be removed from the earth. As we see the movement in this direction, we are impressed again with the fact that the coming of the Lord draws very, very near.
Now, the thing that we want to particularly observe from our passage this morning is this. What will be the characteristics of that world-wide church? That is, if such a thing shall be attained, then upon what basis shall it be attained? As we look at Revelation 17, the second great characteristic of this professing church in the Tribulation Period is apostasy. I think this is first of all implied for us again in the title, “Babylon.” This church is called “Babylon the Great.”
Now, I have already mentioned that the first reference to Babylon is Babel (Genesis 11). We do not know a great deal about the Tower of Babel, but not too far from its probable location another tower has been uncovered by the spade of the archeologist. It is in Beer Nimrod. That tower suggests to us probably something of the structure and the purpose of the Tower of Babel. That tower that can be visited by sightseers stands 153 feet high. It has seven stages in recession. On the top of the seventh stage, there is surmounted a house or a room. On the walls of which there are the signs of the zodiac and other astronomical figures and characters. Each stage on this tower is painted a different color to represent the different planets.
If that is what the Tower of Babel was like, which is the most probable explanation, then there are several things that we know about that Tower of Babel. Undoubtedly, it was involved in the study of astronomy and in the worship of the skies. It certainly was a place of idolatrous worship and that is the background of Babylon in Revelation 17. The city of Babylon in Old Testament history was the epitome of idolatry in the Old Testament era. That is why in verse 5 we read of the abominations of the earth. In Old Testament literature, idolatry was the abomination. So, in the name, Babylon, we have an indication that this professing church will be an apostate church. It will be a church that is a counterfeit religious system of the cooperative or collective rebellion against God. It will be idolatrous and it will be in rebellion against the authority of God.
The name, Babylon, suggests for us the apostasy of this church. I think also the description suggests it. Do you notice how she was described? She is the harlot. She is a prostitute. What a dramatic contrast to the description of the true church described by the apostle Paul as a chaste virgin, espoused to Jesus Christ. This church is the harlot. The harlot in the Old and in the New Testaments oftentimes is symbolic for debauched and idolatrous worship. One thing is sure, in the Tribulation Period the professing church that shall be universal shall be based upon an apostate foundation. It shall be Babylon the Great. It shall be a prostitute, an unfaithful representation of the people of God.
One thing we can certainly expect is that as we draw close to the Tribulation Period we can expect apostasy to become increasingly evident. The apostle Paul told us as he wrote to the Thessalonians that the great apostasy shall come in those days. I believe with all my heart this morning, friends, that you and I are living in the twilight of that great apostasy. The signs are multiplied. One of the signs of the great apostasy, I suspect, is the rise of false prophets about us.
There is Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Scientist movement, Father Antoine of Belgium, Monsieur Froitaige (sp?) who presents himself as the angel of the Lord, the celebrated Ludendorff who has glorified himself as the anti-Christ, Joseph Smith, the revealer of the Mormons, Rudolph Steiner of anthroposophy, Herbert W. Armstrong and many others.
Herbert W. Armstrong, with The World Tomorrow radio program and The Plain Truth publications, presents himself as the only true interpreter of the scriptures and the god-enlightened prophet of the latter times. He says he represents the only true church, The World-Wide Church of God. He is the man who denies the doctrine of the Trinity. He denies the doctrine of grace. He denies the immortality of the soul. He denies the possibility of any present salvation. He preaches an eclectic presentation of a combination of Seventh Day Adventism, Russellism, Mormonism, and British Israelism. He is a false teacher that is calling many hundreds of thousands of Americans to follow in his wake.
The prevalence of false teachers is one of the indications of the apostasy that is upon us. The denials of the fundamentals of the faith is another indication that we are living in the twilight of the apostasy. One of the newspaper advertisements in the Dallas Morning News not too long ago was entitled, “What Should Children Be Taught in Sunday School?” The advertisement reads that God created the world in six days, that man is not a creature of evolution, that Jesus was virgin-born, did miracles and was literally raised from the dead, that Jesus may come down from the sky just any day now, that only those who believe such assertions will be saved, and that everybody else will be burned forever in hell, OR, that creation should be studied from all the world’s religious views, plus the views of modern science, that man has evolved from a wonderful evolutionary process and part of the product of nature, that Jesus was, most likely, a good man who taught many good things and like many of the religious leaders of the world had stories misinvented about him by his followers, that religion should deal in the here and now with complete trust in the forces that brought us into existence without morbid fear of death. It concludes with this statement: “If you agree with us in teaching our children a broad, free view of religion, come visit us.” And it states the churches in Dallas where this is taught.
There is no question about it that we living in an age when the great fundamentals of the faith are being denied. The inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God are attacked on every hand. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ, the deity of our Lord Jesus, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, the bodily resurrection, and the second advent of our Lord— the great fundamentals of the faith are being denied on every hand. It is one of the signs of the apostasy that is upon us.
The capitulation to comparative religion is another indication that we are living in the apostasy. Dr. D. B. Steiner, Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, recently wrote,
“One religion is as good as another. We might even find more of Christ in Hinduism and Buddhism than in Christianity.”
Now, that is typical of the comparative religion approach. I sat on a panel in the university in the city of Dallas here not too long ago with four other men. Most of them, I suspect, were liberals who did not revere the scriptures or Jesus Christ as I did. The man who was sitting beside me in the course of this one-and-a-half hour discussion with all of the students in this class said on one occasion,
“If you ever hear a man stand behind the pulpit and say this is the truth, then you will know that that man has not begun to understand Christianity.”
That is the comparative religion approach and we have capitulated to that. It is one of the signs of the apostasy that is upon us.
The invasion of the secular and the carnal into the spiritual is another sign of the apostasy that is upon us. I read recently that the cast of that filthy musical called, “Hair,” saying the new musical mass at the Episcopal Cathedral in New York, the mass supposedly celebrating the death of our Lord Jesus was on this occasion was to mark the third anniversary of that musical, “Hair.” It was also to celebrate Buddhist’s birthday and Mother’s Day. The mass was celebrated by an Episcopal priest. A Roman Catholic priest read the epistle. A Unitarian political appointee read an address and the anti-war message was delivered by Dr. Harvey Cox, the apostate Baptist minister from Harvard Divinity School. Here is the point. Reporters and photographers were so thick that they had to be pushed away from the communion rail at the time for communion. It is this type of thing, the invasion of the carnal and the secular into the spiritual, that is an indication of the apostasy that is upon us. There are others. There is the rise of the occult and we see it on every hand.
Just to tie indirectly with Babylon in Revelation 17, what shall one say of the rise of astronomy in America in a professing Christian country? The rise of astronomy. It has swept people off their feet so that today there are untold millions of Americans using it. Forty million Americans dabble in astrology. Ten million of them will not make an important decision without consulting the skies. Lives are planned by the planets today. In McCall’s Magazine, I read that for many of today’s young people, astrology has taken the place of psychology as the personality decoder of our generation. Even up in Canada it has happened. Macleans magazine writes,
“Canadians are going in for what is probably the biggest revival of astrology since the fall of Babylon.”
No one even looks at you out of the corner of his eye if he says that you are born in Pisces. The Sunday Times of Britain reports that two-thirds of the adult population in Britain read their horoscopes and seven million of them do it seriously.
The rise of the occult is another indication of the apostasy that is upon us. One could speak besides astrology of the clairvoyant, ESP, black magic, telepathy, palm reading, and many other evidences of it. It is part of Babylon. That is the point, friends. It is Babylon. It is Babel back in Genesis 11. What we are seeing now is the development of what in our very era today will reach its full bloom in the Tribulation Period. I believe with all my heart that what Paul said in II Thessalonians concerning the great apostasy that shall sweep the earth in the initial days of the Tribulation Period is almost upon us. We are living in the twilight of that great apostasy. It is Babylon the great of Revelation 17. It is the second feature of the professing church in the Tribulation Period and we are moving dangerously close to that feature and that characteristic.
2. Political Activism
There is still a third point. The third feature of Babylon in Revelation 17 is its political activism. One of the things that impresses a person as they read through Revelation 17 is the relationship between the woman and the beast. The beast is the leader of the revived Roman Empire, the leader of the European Confederacy of ten nations. I want you to notice what the relationship shall be between this woman and the beast. In Revelation 17:3 we read,
“So he carried me away in the spirit, into the wilderness, and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast.”
She is dominating the beast. If the imagery means anything to us then it simply speaks to us of her domination over the political power that shall prevail in the world at that time. Again, I think you have this presented to us in verse 1 where you read that she sits upon many waters. She is in a position of great political influence. In verse 18, we are told specifically that she reigns over the kings of the earth.
One thing we can certainly expect as we approach the Tribulation Period is that the professing church will become more influential and more active in national and international politics. That is precisely what is taking place in our very day and in our age. Because of the inability to agree on a doctrinal foundation, there has at times been a painfully slow movement toward a one-world church [the fulfillment of the ecumenical movement]. This painfully slow movement toward that has led the leaders of this movement to move in another direction— which now is a direction of mission. Now, the emphasis in the ecumenical movement is not, “what doctrines can we agree on and how can we establish a common doctrinal foundation?” Now rather it is, “what can we do together?” It is projects that has become so important to them. The emphasis is upon mission and upon projects.
In an article recently the Ecumenical Review, the spokesman for the ecumenical movement, reported on this dialogue between the World Council of Churches and Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. This is what it wrote,
“The World Council of Churches may have to move away from its position of continuous isolation to one of more positive cooperation with men of other faiths in matters of mutual concerns such as justice and peace and human rights, and education, development and the future of man.”
That is exactly what is happening. We are seeing the church become a political force. That is why Paul Harvey, the noted commentator, sometime ago mentioned in his commentary that thousands of Presbyterians have left the Presbyterian Church USA because of their $10,000 donation to Angela Davis’ defense and because of their $25,000 that they gave to the Black Panther defense when they were on trial in New York. In September 1971, the World Council of Churches had its annual meeting in Bulgaria and allocated $200,000 to anti-racists groups around the world. Twenty-four organizations were given money. Nine of them were liberation fronts in South Africa. For one of them, $7,500 was given to the Malcolm X Liberation University in North Carolina. This is a typical representation of what is done with that $200,000. Rather interestingly, a twist came when the revolutionary government of Angola in exile turned down its offer of $7,500. They said it was a trap, and that the World Council of Churches had become political. Now, that is striking. That is very significant. It was the revolutionary government of Angola that rejected that offer because they said the World Council of Churches has become political. The evidence for it is abundant on every hand.
The church center in the United Nations is heavily staffed and heavily financed. Every major denomination in the United States has an office in Washington that is involved in the church lobby. The US News and World Report of just a month ago made this comment,
“Showdown in Congress over prayer in schools reveals this: Spokesmen for religious groups are becoming an important part of the Washington scene. Heeding the pleas of leaders of denominations and religious groups, Congress rejected the proposed Constitutional amendment to put prayer back in the schools. The outcome was hailed as the greatest victory for the activisits churchmen in Washington since they helped push through the Civil Rights Bill in ‘64.”
Now, the point is not that that amendment was a good amendment. I am not sure that it was. I think that it is a good thing perhaps that the amendment to put prayer back in the schools was defeated. It was not a good amendment in the opinion of many people today. The point is that it was defeated as a result of the influence of denominational men who are involved in the church lobby.
The influence of these men in politics is becoming increasingly great. It is in this year that the churchmen have made their marches to Hanoi and to Paris. The Canadian Council of Churches just this past year has introduced a new ministry, a ministry that is devoted to helping the men of the United States Armed Forces who are draft-dodgers and who are escaping from the Army. Their chaplain is a man who is a chaplain from the University of Wisconsin. It is supported jointly by the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches with $70,000 budgeted every year for it from the World Council of Churches. That is the political activism of the apostate Church of Christendom today.
A recent article in an influential German magazine summed up the new religious mood by documenting the emergence of a revolutionary ideology which, it says, and I quote,
“Threatens to turn the church into a political party.”
That is the third great feature of Babylon in Revelation 17. For the first three-and-a-half years of the Tribulation Period the apostate universal church shall control the political arm and at the end of that three-and-a-half years, the political arm shall overthrow the apostate church and establish at that point the worship of the anti-Christ and the worship of the beast. But, in the Tribulation Period, one thing is certain: there shall be a politically active apostate church that shall prevail and it shall encompass the earth. We are moving dangerously close toward that very situation.
So, as I read Revelation 17, and as I superimpose it upon the newspapers and the magazines that I read I am impressed with the fact that we are moving very close toward the conditions that shall exist in the Tribulation Period. For in that period there shall be one church—universally united— that shall be apostate absolutely to its very core, and shall be politically active in controlling the politics of the earth at that time. We are moving dangerously close toward that. If I take then the condition of the professing church today, and I add it to the seven signs we considered last week, and then I add to it the eight or ten other signs that I can find elsewhere in the scriptures I come to a conclusion. I conclude that the better than 20 signs given to us by the prophets, our Lord, and the apostles indicate the coming of the Lord are in a virtual state of fulfillment today.
The challenge to me and the challenge to you is this what type persons ought we to be? How ought we to be living? Here we come to the conclusion of our study of the Rapture of the church. If it is near, if it is imminent, if it is upon us, then, my Christian friend, how ought it to affect our daily lives?
Let me call to the witness stand the apostle Jude. He would stand before us and quoting from his own words in his epistle in verse 3 he would say, “Men and women, believers in Jesus Christ, let us earnestly contend for the faith.” That is one of the practical implications of the imminent coming of our Lord. It is, “let us earnestly contend for the faith.”
When General Sherman was on his march from Chattanooga to Atlanta and to the sea, General Hood circled behind him and cut off his return to his fort, the basic means of supply and communication. He sent one of his lieutenants, Lt. Corse, through the lines to the fortress and shortly one of his men saw the signal being flagged to him from the fort, “Corse is here.” It was at that moment that General Sherman by heliography sent back his world-famous message which was, “Hold the fort. I am coming.” Standing with him was a Christian major, Major Whittle, who related the story to a world evangelist, P.P. Bliss. It was Bliss who then wrote that hymn, “Hold the Fort, for I am coming.”
My Christian friend, if we are standing on the threshold of the great apostasy, if we are standing in the very days when the Rapture of the church perhaps is upon us, one of the great messages that comes to us from the apostle Jude is “hold the fort.” “Earnestly contend for the faith.” That is what Believers Chapel is committed to. The men who shall stand behind this pulpit, and who shall minister the Word are men who will earnestly contend for the faith. They believe that the Bible is the Word of God. That it is inspired by the Spirit of God and it is inerrant in its entirety. They believe that Jesus Christ is God. They believe that He is the only way to God and that His death upon the cross is the only means whereby man in his sin can be reconciled to God. We shall earnestly contend for the faith. We shall hold the fort by God’s grace and we shall preach the Word. That is the great challenge that is upon us as believers in Jesus Christ in this day when apostasy prevails on every end and we seem to be under attack from the apostate in every direction. The message from our Lord will be “hold the fort for I am coming.” “Earnestly contend for the faith.”
May God enable us as believers in Jesus Christ, as Sunday School teachers, as parents, to earnestly contend for that faith, to teach our children the faith, and to minister to those to whom we minister the faith. May we do this so that we will be defending that which is under attack and which is being washed away and undermined from every direction.
Let Paul come to the witness stand. “Paul, what manner of men ought we to be in view of the imminent return of our Lord?” Paul would stand before us in the words of II Timothy 4 and say “I charge thee before God and before Jesus Christ who shall judge the living and the dead at His appearing, preach the Word.” That would be Paul’s admonition to us this morning. As we anticipate the coming of the One who shall judge us, the admonition is “preach the Word.”
It was D. L. Moody who said,
“I felt like working three times as hard when I discovered that my Lord was returning again.”
Now I know that there are a lot of problems with talking about working hard for Jesus Christ. I realize all of the implications of that, but I think the message of it, my friends, is dynamic to us. If our Lord is on the threshold, if He is standing at the door, if the Rapture of the church is upon us, then somehow that message ought to grip our hearts as it gripped the hearts of the great evangelist Moody. “I felt like working three times as hard when I learned that my Lord was returning again.” That is the admonition that Paul gave to young Timothy. I charge thee before Him who shall return and judge. Preach the Word. Be instant in season and out of season. May God enable us to be that type Christian.
Paul, come to the stand once again, will you? This time as Paul comes to the stand to exhort us as to what type of men and women we ought to be. I suspect that one of the things that he would do would be to quote what he wrote to young Titus when he spoke of looking for that blessed hope. His admonition would be to “watch expectantly.” That ought to characterize us, Christian friends. Are you watching expectantly for the coming of our Lord?
It is said that Dr. G. Campbell Morgan once wrote,
“To me, the second coming is the perpetual light on the path which makes the present bearable. I never lay my head on my pillow without thinking that maybe before the morning breaks, the final morning will have dawned. I never begin my work without thinking that perhaps He may interrupt my work and begin His own. This is now His words to all believing souls ‘til He come. We are not looking for death, he says, we are looking for Him.”
Watching expectantly. What a characteristic of a believer as we approach the days that are before us.
John, will you come to the stand? What type persons ought we to be? John, I am sure, would quote to us from his first epistle, 1 John 2:28, where he exhorts those to whom he is writing “to so live that they shall not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” He shall come back. Justin Martyr once wrote what he said was a saying of our Lord that somehow, for some reason, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was never included in the scriptures. The saying of Justin Martyr was this:
“In whatsoever state I surprise you, I will judge you there.”
Now, we do not know whether the Lord said that or not, but it is typical of what John says “to so live that we shall not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
James, come to the witness stand. What manner of persons ought we to be? James’ exhortation to us, I am sure would be that what we ought to be doing is waiting patiently for the coming of our Lord. Waiting patiently for Him. He says in James 5:7-8, that the coming of the Lord draws nigh and to be waiting patiently for that coming.
An insurance company sometime ago recorded the story of a man and his daughter who went swimming off the coast of New Jersey in the Atlantic. Before very long, they realized they were being carried out into the ocean by the tide and the father turned to his daughter and said that he was going to swim for shore in order to obtain help. He encouraged his daughter to continue swimming and he said, “If you get tired just turn over on your back and you can float all day and I will come back for you.” The father made it to shore. Then, the search party started looking for the daughter. They looked for four long hours until they found her quietly floating on her back out in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean. When they found her and brought her in to the shore, the newsmen were on every hand and the people were astounded at the calmness of this teenaged girl. Her response was that “my father had said that I could float all day so I swam and floated because I knew he would come.” That is exactly the attitude of the believer. As he finds himself encircled by all kinds of uncertainties, as he finds himself in the midst of the trials, troubles, and adversities of life, there is the calmness to rest in Him because He said he would come and He said to wait patiently for His coming.
Lord Shaftesbury said, “The only hope for all of the mess of this world is the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He said, “I do not know why we don’t plea with God for it every time we hear that clock strike.”
What manner of persons ought we to be? My friend, we ought to be earnestly contending for the faith. We ought to be preaching the Word. We ought to be walking circumspectly. We ought to be watching expectantly and waiting patiently. And, if you have never believed in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, the great message to you this morning, my friend, is to trust Him as your savior. Do this now so that when He does return and the church is raptured that you shall go to be with Him and to be like Him forever and ever.
If the Rapture of the Church took place before the end of 1971, what would it mean for you? For those who have come to Jesus Christ, have confessed their sin to Him, have recognized that He died upon the cross for them, have recognized He bore their sin upon the cross and God judged Him for their sin, have turned to Him, and have received Him personally as their savior— for that person, the coming again of the Lord Jesus means the Rapture. They shall be saved and carried off to be with Him and to be like Him forever and ever.
My friend, are you trusting in Him this morning? May I ask you what is it that you are depending upon for your salvation? Are you depending upon the blood of Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sin, the salvation of your soul, and the participation in God’s future program? That is the only basis of salvation. “There is no under name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) It is the name of Jesus Christ. If you have never trusted Him before, we invite you on this last Sunday of 1971 to trust Him, to simply bow before Him and to confess to Him that you are a sinner, to thank Him for dying for you. Then, say, Lord Jesus, at this very moment I receive You personally as my savior. That is the kind of persons we ought to be as we stand in the very threshold of the coming again of our Lord Jesus.
Let’s bow, shall we, and close our class in prayer. Our father, we thank you that You have given to us these signs along the way that indicate the coming again of our Lord. We thank You for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit that that has shown us how to interpret these signs and to recognize them. We pray, Lord, that as You have given to us these insights so that we see the movements on the horizons of the world today in the light of the Word of God that You would also give to us the wisdom and the grace to live in the light of this truth. Father, our hearts are just absolutely thrilled this morning at the prospect of the soon return of our Lord. We pray that You will help us during this week to be looking for Him. Help us this week to be walking in such a way that we shall be expecting Him. Help us to be faithful to Him during this week. We pray, Lord, that You will soon return so that we may know the fulfillment of your great plans and purposes. We give You thanks for Your goodness to us. To each one of us present we ask a very special measure of grace that we might live in the light of this truth. For we ask it in Christ’s name. Amen.