Today we will conclude our series on “The Signs of the End Times” with a final message called “Enduring Christians”. This sermon will address the state of the church in the last days. The Bible warns that the church will face extreme difficulties, both within and without, as the Lord’s return draws near. Despite these challenges, it will ultimately complete its mission.
We have already dealt extensively with the condition of mankind as a whole during the end times. Though human knowledge will increase rapidly, people will suffer from a blinding spiritual delusion and exhibit terrible moral depravity. This will lead to great strife and division between individuals, families, people groups, kingdoms, and nations. Conflicts will arise and violence will erupt. Yet, just as He has in every generation, God will preserve a faithful remnant of believers.
As the chaos of the end times rages, what will be happening within God’s church? How will they be treated by society at large? What will the church be doing? These are the questions we will seek to answer this morning. Let’s begin...
I. HYPOCRITES & POWERLESS RELIGION
A hypocrite is someone who professes to believe something while acting in a manner contrary to their profession. In other words, they don’t practice what they preach. Jesus spoke out strongly against hypocrisy on several different occasions. He referred to the Pharisees as hypocrites for not abiding by the weightier portions of the Law (Matthew 23:23). Unfortunately, in the end times Christian churches will be filled with hypocrites. The Bible pictures this as tares growing among the wheat. The reputation and influence of the church will be hindered as many practice the very sins which they are speaking against.
Even after a truly repentant sinner comes to Christ and receives salvation, they still continue to sin to some degree. Though they are forgiven, they are still human and therefore remain prone to make mistakes and act in disobedience. The Bible urges Christians to regularly confess their sins to God in prayer, despite having already been saved (1 John 1:9). This is because sin continues to have a negative impact on the life of a born-again believer. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit, which in turn quenches His divine power within the Christian life (Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:19). On a large scale, this results in a weakened and anemic church.
It is important to realize that darkness is powerless over light. In other words, the only way for darkness to increase and prevail is for the light to diminish. Jesus describes his followers - ie, the church - as a city on a hill which is called to shine His light and illuminate this dark world (Matthew 5:14). With this in mind, the bleakness and degradation of the last days is largely, if not wholly, attributed to the failure of the church. What a sobering indictment this is!
II. PERSECUTION OF THE CHURCH
In the end times, Christians will be hated and the church will be fiercely persecuted (Matthew 24:9). True believers who stand boldly for Jesus will be imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. Christians will be maliciously slandered and labeled as racists, bigots, and narrow-minded. The world will strongly contend with the church, seeking to silence her voice by oppressing her members. Many will abandon the church altogether , while others will remain cowardly quiet rather than risk standing up against sin.
Jesus warned that since the world hated Him, it will also hate those who follow Him (John 15:18). This has certainly been the case throughout history. Extreme persecution against the New Testament Christians by both the Jews and Romans during the first century led to the dispersion of believers across the nations. Throughout the Dark Ages, true Christians were oppressed, in many cases, by the apostate church. Muslims have led violent caliphates against both Christians and Jews. Christianity has been under attack for centuries.
According to a recent report, it is currently estimated that more than 260 million Christians worldwide experience high levels of persecution as the result of their faith in Jesus. That equates to roughly 1 of every 8 believers. For the past decade, approximately 90,000 have died as martyrs each year. In many locations Christian churches are being burned, raided, and forced underground. Christians are already the most persecuted religious group in the world, and this mistreatment is accelerating with each passing year.
III. THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO ALL PEOPLE
In spite of the numerous problems and pressures facing Christianity during the last days, it ultimately will endure and the LORD’s elect will prevail. When Jesus established the church He gave it one overarching task - to go and make disciples of all the nations. Christians are to carry the gospel message to every person on the face of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8). This is the primary mission of the church. Over the centuries many obstacles have prevented the church from attaining this lofty goal.
The Joshua Project, a leading group dedicated to this issue, has identified over 17,000 distinct people groups spread out across the world. Of these, more than 7,000 are considered largely unreached by the gospel. Despite the ongoing efforts of thousands of Christian missionaries and evangelists, literally billions of people still have little to no access to the gospel. Many have never heard it at all. As citizens of the United States, this is hard for many to believe - but it is true. That said, the work of the church persists and the gospel continues to advance, albeit slowly. Revival continues to break out in various places around the world, especially in those areas facing the heaviest persecution.
Jesus stated that the gospel would be preached to the whole world and then the end would come (Matthew 24:14). Furthermore, God has preordained that a certain number of Gentiles will accept Christ. Once that number is reached the Church Age will come to an end ushering in Jesus’ second coming (Romans 11:25). While no man knows what that number is, each profession of faith brings us a little closer. Therefore, one of the premier signs of the end times is the spreading of the gospel throughout the entire earth. Although much of the world currently remains unreached, it is quite possible that this could occur in our lifetime.
In my somewhat informed opinion, the only reason that Jesus has not yet returned to the earth is that there are still more people to be saved before reaching God’s preset threshold. But the question is, how many more? Millions? Hundreds? Just a few? I believe we are very close to the second coming of Christ… and honestly, I can’t wait!
The signs of the end times given in the Bible paint a picture that looks a lot like our world today. Let’s end this series with a review of what we’ve learned. May we be ever alert because Jesus will be arriving very soon.
1. Historical patterns and precedent, such as the miraculous rebirth of Israel, suggest that we are living in the end times.
2. Spiritual delusion, as evidenced by the rise of false messiahs, false prophets, and false teachers, coupled with a proclivity to abandon truth in exchange for lies all suggest that we are living in the end times.
3. Worldwide conflict, which is seen in wars, rumors of wars, political upheaval, and cries for peace through globalistic governance, all suggest that we are living in the end times.
4. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, famines, and epidemic diseases, all suggest that we are living in the end times.
5. Astronomical signs, which can be seen in the sun, moon, and stars, seem consistent with those which will appear in the end times.
6. Rampart immorality, as displayed by pervasive lawlessness in society, materialism, pride and self-interest, the assault on marriage, and breakdown of the family, all suggest that we are living in the end times.
7. Increased knowledge, revealed through new inventions, discoveries, and techniques, has enabled us to do and understand things that have been reserved especially for the end times.
8. Enduring Christians, though they face hypocrisy inside the church and severe persecution from outside sources, are now within reach of carrying the gospel to the entire world which suggests that we are living in the end times.