Rev. Gritters is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan.
A couple of months ago I began by saying that, although we do not know when the end will come in terms of days or even years, the Bible does give us good instructions as to what we must expect before the Lord returned to make all things new. I hope and pray that you will know these things!
Close to the end there will be a wholesale “divorcing” (apostasy means “putting away”) of the truth by the churches. Men and women in leadership and in the pew will reject the doctrines that the true church had always held, in that way laying the groundwork for the great Apostate, Antichrist. Combining both political and church powers into one mammoth power, his will be the peaceful, prosperous, highest attainment of man this earth had ever known. Alliance with him will give lucrative benefits. Opposition to him will mean persecution, such horrible persecution that the true church is almost pressed out of existence. But the elect will not perish, spiritually. The Lord will shorten the days. The people of God will be saved.
Young people, do you know the teaching about the end times? Are you aware of what the Bible teaches will happen in these perilous times? Are you aware that they will be perilous?
Before the rise of Antichrist and great persecution take place, the church is to be busy Instead of simply watching these developments and wringing our hands in despair, or only assuming a defensive posture, the church is to be busy with the positive and offensive work of the preaching of the gospel to all nations, as the Lord commanded in Matthew 28:18-20. And this work of the gospel preaching to all nations is connected by the Lord to the end times in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.”
This shows how important the preaching of the gospel is! The end of the world and the coming of Jesus Christ wait on the preaching! The end cannot come until the gospel is preached; and when it is preached, it will come! Everything waits on the preaching. For example, since the Antichrist will stop the preaching, that is, silence the witness of the church (Rev. 11), something must hinder the coming of the Antichrist (II Thess. 2), so that the gospel can go throughout all the earth. Antichrist will not come until the preaching is finished. The end waits on the preaching!
If this is true, it is the saddest (and most wicked!) behavior possible that churches who claim to love the Lord Jesus are throwing out or putting the preaching off to the side. And it would be the worst thing in the world for the young people of the churches to ask for anything to replace the faithful preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I just talked with a pastor who said that, even though he knew it used to be the tradition of his denomination to let the preaching have the central place, it certainly was not the case in his church anymore. Pray that you may so love Jesus Christ and His work that you love the preaching.
The “gospel of the kingdom” that Jesus refers to inMatthew 24:14 teaches that your God is the King, that the Kingdom is His Kingdom; not man’s. The Kingdom you belong to is a Kingdom of heaven, not a kingdom of this world, a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly kingdom. Jesus Christ, Son of the King, your older brother, rules in His Kingdom by His Holy Spirit and the Word of His grace.
The gospel (good news) of this Kingdom that we preach and that you young people hear and remember as you lie down to sleelp with a guilty conscience, is that the King has grace and favor towards sinners through Jesus Christ, and that there is salvation from sin and death and hell in the blood of the cross of Christ! So the message of the Kingdom’s gospel is the whole story of Jesus Christ—His Person, His work, His power, His glory! Really it is the whole Bible, but always as it centers in Jesus Christ Who is Lord and King through His death and resurrection. Why? Because the foundation of the Kingdom is the righteousness of Jesus Christ in His cross. Withoutthis foundation, the Kingdom is nothing.
But how is this kingdom built? How does it grow? Can you see it? God’s children come into this kingdomthrough faith in Jesus Christ. God’s rule in the kingdom people is a rule in their hearts. Jesus Christ puts His throne there. Remember, you have the richesof that Kingdom when you have the riches of salvationin Jesus. You have the peace of that Kingdom when you know that all your filthy sins and corrupt nature areforgiven you because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. That is peace! That is prosperity! And that isinvisible! “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation” (Luke 17:10). Pray for that Kingdom to be yours more and more.
So the gospel of that Kingdom is a message of repentance, of sorrow for sin, of humbling yourself before God’s great goodness because of sin. It is a message that joy comes through this godly sorrow!
Is this the gospel that you are hearing today? Is this what comes from your pulpit and out of the mouth of your pastor? I pray that it is in yours, because anotherkingdom is being promoted today, an earthly kingdom with earthly riches and earthly peace. This is the kingdom of man, of man’s power and man’s glory. In the preaching of this kingdom, the kingdom of heaven is laughed at as old-fashioned and ineffective. In the preaching of this kingdom, the message of sin and repentance is despised.
On an Amway inspirational tape, Robert Schuller, “Reformed” pastor who has a larger audience. than any other “Reformed” pastor in the world, says, “I don’t think anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality, and hence, counterproductive to evangelism enterprise, than the often crude, uncouth, and unchristian strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.” Explaining Philippians 2:7, 8 he said, “Jesus…suffered the cross to sanctify his self-esteem, and he bore the cross to sanctify your self-esteem. And the cross will sanctify your ego-trip.” His is the gospel of “meat and drink,” whereas the gospel of the Kingdom is of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (see Romans 14:16).
That “gospel,” the gospel of that kingdom, which is not the heavenly kingdom, is powerless to save sinners. It may deceptively remove a little of your guilt now, but it certainly doesn’t save. But the gospel of “thiskingdom,” Jesus’ Kingdom, actually makes the Kingdom to grow. You see; the preaching of the Kingdom does not just inform you about the kingdom; it actually translates God’s elect into the kingdom. The preaching draws you and me into the Kingdom, and in doing so establishes the rule of Jesus Christ in our hearts! See Romans 10:13-15 and I Corinthians 1:17-24.
Is it not strange, then, that people who claim to love the kingdom, claim to want to promote the kingdom, claim to be zealous for the establishment of that kingdom, are running madly around the world doing everything except preaching the gospel of this kingdom? It is like a young man who wants to attract a girl but never uses his deodorant, or like a father who wants to feed his family but eliminates the grocery item from the budget.
Young people, do you see that the church’s calling is to preach? Since the gospel is so powerful, do you learn from this how important it is that we listen to it? Do you see that your duty is to support that preaching of the gospel, the preaching of this gospel, and no other? Let your support be thrown behind the denominational mission work and the evangelism work of your local church, by giving liberally to those collections. Give your support to the seminary where gospel preachers are being trained. Give encouragement to your pastor. Pray for the preaching!
And could it be that the Lord wants you, young men, to be trained for the ministry of the gospel, so that you personally will be used by the King of the Kingdom for this blessed work? Do I need to tell you again that this work, in addition to being one of the most important works in God’s kingdom, also carries with it a blessing and a reward “now in this time…and in the life to come…”?
Two dangers must be warned against when we speak of the preaching of the gospel to all nations.
First, there is the temptation to be optimistic in the wrong sense about the results of the gospel preaching. There is the view that before Jesus returns, almost the whole world will be converted by the gospel and be saved. Earthly life will become almost completely Christian, in politics, in law, in culture, in ethics. This is the postmillennial golden age that will be a fulfillment of the Old Testament’s prophecies about beating swords into plowshares and about the knowledge of God covering the earth as the waters cover the sea.
But this is a dream that is not scriptural. As we saw last time, Matthew 24 teaches conclusively that the last times will be times of false prophets, horrible apostasy, vile wickedness, hot persecution. So terrible will these days be that for the elect’s sake they will be shortened. We may not suppose that the end times mean fantastic success in the mass conversion of the world’s population.
But, second, this does not mean that we must be pessimistic about the preaching of the gospel. You notice that I said the first danger was to be optimisticin the wrong sense. But optimism is warranted! There is nothing pessimistic about the prophecies in the Old Testament, including the promise that the “little stone” of Daniel that crushes the image will grow until it fills the whole earth, nothing pessimistic about the message that the white horse of the preaching will go forth triumphantly. We are optimists. We must be optimists, because Jesus Christ sits on the throne, ruling right now! And the message that Jesus sends forth through His faithful servants is accomplishing His will triumphantly, right now!
But we may not, get the wrong impression of what Jesus promises will be the result of the gospel preaching. Christ does not say in Matthew 24 that the gospel will convert all nations, but that it will be preached as a witness to all nations. The triumph that II Corinthians 10:4, 5 speaks of is a spiritual triumph, just as the weapons of our warfare are spiritual weapons. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God….”
As a “witness” to all nations, the preaching will result in the hardening of some nations and of some in all nations. The preaching witnesses to them the error of their way, the lie of their theology, and exposes their crooked behavior. But they reject the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. In doing that, they fill up the measure of the cup of sin and are readied for the final judgment. Jesus always warned the disciples that this would be one of the results of faithful gospel preaching. That is why He forewarned the church that she would be hated for His name’s sake (Matthew 24:9).
But this is not the only result of the preaching. The positive result, indeed, the main purpose of God in the preaching, is to save His elect in every nation, to save you, who believe. By this gospel, the elect are brought into the kingdom, saved from the power and misery of the other kingdom, the kingdom of darkness. Praise God, the gospel of this kingdom saves! We come into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ (Col. 1:13). This dear Son rules, and we possess the riches and peace of the only lasting kingdom, so that in every aspect of our life, the kingdom comes and is extended.
Has the gospel of the kingdom been preached to all nations? When it has, all the elect will halve been gathered in and the end will come.
“Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. And grant us the grace to be faithful in preaching and, hearing the preaching, to believe.”