Dear Radio Friends,
Today we consider another one of the signs that Jesus gives in Matthew 24 of His coming and of the end of the world. In Matthew 24:12, Jesus says: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”
In connection with that, I want to read a couple other passages in Scripture. First, Luke 17:26-29.
And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 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. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
This passage is telling us that those Old Testament events of the destruction of the world during the time of Noah in the flood and the destruction of Sodom by fire and brimstone were God-ordained, Old Testament pictures of the coming end of the world. They were types of what will come at the end of the world.
There are two points of comparison. The first point of comparison is this: that the wickedness of those days will characterize the wickedness of the last days. The second point of comparison is this: as the world was suddenly destroyed in the days of Noah and Lot, so it will be suddenly destroyed at the time of the coming of Jesus Christ.
To help us understand what Jesus means here by “abounding iniquity” in the last days, we want to turn back to those Old Testament passages in the book of Genesis. I want to read a few verses from both Genesis 6 and Genesis 19. Beginning in Genesis 6 we have a description of the abounding iniquity of the days in which Noah lived. In Genesis 6:5:
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Then, in verses 11-13:
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Similarly, we read in Genesis 19 of what was going on in Sodom in the days of Lot, just before God rained fire and brimstone on Sodom. Two men come into the city of Sodom and Lot invites them into his home, and before they lay down, we read in Genesis 19:4, 5,
…the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: and they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.
There are two other Old Testament passages that I have in mind as I think about abounding iniquities. One is Judges 21:25. This describes the situation in Israel in the days of the judges. “There was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” The other passage is Isaiah 5:20, where Isaiah says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
Back in Matthew 24:12, this is what Jesus has in mind. The word “iniquity” there (“because iniquity shall abound”) is, literally, “no law,” or “without law,” or “against the law.” The law here, of course, is God’s law, and Jesus speaks of a day when God’s law will be thrown out. This is the same word that is used in reference to the last days in II Thessalonians 2 when it speaks of the rise of Antichrist. It calls him “the man of sin,” who opposes and exalts himself against God and then, in verse 8, calls him that “wicked,” or “lawless one,” the same root word. And verse 7 says that the “mystery of iniquity,” this mystery of lawlessness, is already working. A standing up in opposition to the law of God that will culminate in the kingdom of the Antichrist.
That helps us to understand the kind of wickedness that Jesus has in mind here that will characterize the last days. It will not be simply a disobedience to the law of God or a failure to keep the law of God, but it will be a deliberate despising of and overturning of God’s law and a rejection, then, of God Himself, the Law-giver. Jesus has in mind here a very developed and sophisticated form of rejection of the law of God—not just anarchism in society, or just an increase in the crime that you read about in the papers. He is talking about a time when the things that were once done in secret because of their sin, once punished because of their wickedness, will be done openly and flagrantly, in opposition to, deliberate opposition to, the law of God and to God Himself. Evil will be called good and good will be called evil. These things will be sanctioned by the government and the rulers of the land. Orderly and peaceful society will reject God and will reject His laws, and evildoers will no longer be called evildoers or be punished, and those who hold to God’s law will be persecuted.
This is the kind of lawlessness that characterized Sodom. Here was just Lot, his righteous soul vexed day by day by the wickedness of Sodom. That night, when he took into his home those visitors, the men of the city, that is the rulers and people from every walk of life in the city, came and surrounded the house to sodomize and to rape the men who had come to see Lot. This was sanctioned by the rulers of the land.
This is the kind of wickedness that Jesus has in mind. Certainly we see evidences of this in the day and age in which we live. There is God’s law on human sexuality and marriage. It is the law not only written on the pages of Scripture very clearly, but written in the very creation of man as male and female and written on the conscience of man. What we see is not just disobedience to this law, a moral lapse, a failure to keep the law, but we see this: here is the law, and society is not only going to do exactly the opposite of what the law of God demands, but is going to overturn the law; society is going to condone the breaking of the law, and is going to persecute those who insist on the keeping of the law of God with regard to marriage as a lifelong bond between one man and one woman. All of this is done under the guise of equal rights for humans, anti-discrimination, and peace for society. And Christian retailers, Christian churches, and , in the end, all Christians will pay the price for their obedience and love for the law of God.
That, of course, is not the only example. Another outstanding example is abortion. This is one of the greatest evils of our modern society. There is no question that this is murder. A doctor cuts limbs and organs from a living baby in the mother’s womb. This has gone on now for more than forty years, sanctioned by the law. Evil has been called good. You see in abortion a sophistication of this. This is a gruesome behavior, but so long as it is done inside the womb where it cannot be seen and where the cries of the baby cannot be heard; as long as it is done under the cover of choice and the banner of women’s rights and citizens’ freedoms, then it is presented as something that is good. It is justified in the conscience by committing a worse evil: using the aborted fetuses and embryos for research. And this is excused as medical research that will preserve other lives.
Those are just two outstanding examples, but they are not the only evils endorsed in a lawless society. What it points to is a deeper resistance to all of God’s commandments and law. In the text Jesus says “iniquity shall abound,” or there will be abounding iniquity. That means that this iniquity, this lawlessness, this resistance to God’s Word and law will come in every segment of society, at every level, in every kind of evil. There will be a tidal-wave of evil, as it were, that sweeps across the world in the days before Jesus comes because the spirit of the age will be a spirit of lawlessness, a spirit of setting aside the authority of God’s law and setting up man as God.
As we think about this, it is important for us to remember that this abounding lawlessness is a sign of the coming of Jesus Christ. That means two things. First, it means this: this is nothing new. As II Thessalonians 2 says, there is a spirit of lawlessness and a mystery of lawlessness that already works. So, though there is an increasing frequency and intensity in this sign, it has always been present in this world against God. You see, the world that we live in is not going to become a better place. There is not a future “golden age” that we as Christians can expect. That just is not true. If we think that, we will be deceived and we will be disappointed. You see, the examples to which I just referred are not new. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in our land to approve homosexual marriage, for example, does not start with homosexuality. It goes back in our society to some things that have happened decades earlier—the approval of sexual immorality. You think, for example, of the sexual revolution of the ’60s, teenage sex, sex in high schools, taking the Ten Commandments down out of the institutions, and the entertainment industry and what that purports and puts forth as normal in our society.
So, when we see evil endorsed, what we are really seeing is a society that wants this, a mystery of iniquity working. Proverbs 28:2 says this: “For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof.” It means this: that a wicked land will multiply wicked rulers. This, in the end, is the judgment of God Himself of man. Romans 1 says that God gives them over to their reprobate minds and that sin develops into greater sin and comes as the judgment of God on man’s sin. We can again think of the examples. A society legalizes a sin and then, in order to deal with that sin, it legalizes a greater sin. Just think of this: the legalizing of abortion follows on the permissiveness of a society with regard to sexuality.
So, sin develops and we should look at this not only as something we see developing around us in society, but we should look to the source of this development as well. Where does it come from? It comes from pride in the heart of man. It comes from man’s desire for pleasure. It comes from man’s pride, standing up against the law of God. That is a pride and that is a selfishness that we have in our hearts, too. So, our calling as a people of God is to preach the gospel. This gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations. Jesus says that in a couple of verses. And that gospel not only points out what God’s law requires, but it gives an answer to the sinfulness of the heart of man and calls man to repentance and faith and forgiveness in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Then, the other thing we should understand about this abounding wickedness as a sign of the coming Jesus Christ is that it is a necessary part of His coming, that it prepares for the final coming of Jesus Christ. It is something that must take place before He comes. Through this wickedness in society, Jesus Himself is coming. Now we think again of the Old Testament pictures of the flood and the days of Sodom. Just as the world before the flood, by its wickedness, was preparing itself for final judgment and destruction that came through the flood so that God could save His church; and just as Sodom, by its wickedness, was preparing itself for the day of fire and brimstone so that God could deliver just Lot out of Sodom; so today the world is being prepared for the day of final judgment. It is filling up its cup of iniquity. As Psalm 7 says, God is angry with the wicked every day, and He has whet His sword and bent His bow and made it ready and prepared for Him the instruments of death. When Jesus comes, not only will He destroy in judgment all that is opposed to Him, but in deliverance He will save His people and bring them to life and glory. So we have to see that Jesus is coming, also in this wickedness.
But now, let us understand that there is a danger that this abounding lawlessness poses to the church and to the people of God. You see that in the text in Matthew 24:12 when Jesus says, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” The love that Jesus is speaking of here is the love of His church, the love of the people of God for God and for His law.
There is no love for God in the world. They never loved God. They never cared about the law of God. The natural man despises God and His Word. But God’s people love Him. God’s church is His bride in this world and she loves her Husband. What Jesus is talking about here is the love that believers have for Himself and for the gospel and for the Word and for the church of Christ and the cause of Christ in this world. Jesus is warning that because iniquity shall abound, that love may well wax cold in the church.
Jesus does not say that, because of cold hearts, iniquity shall abound. But He says that, because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. What is cold has the idea of a flame being blown out and of tapering away. The cold winds that come and blow on that are the abounding wickedness and lawlessness of society. The open adultery of the world, the permissiveness of the world, the tolerance of the world—these things blow into the lives of the people of God and into the church of God. The people of God will sometimes let these things come into their homes and into their lives through movies and entertainment and the Internet and literature. As they do this, it does not fuel their love for God but it blows cold their love for God.
Perhaps the most outstanding evidence of this in the church world today is what has happened to the fourth commandment of the law of God, where God says, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” Today we see that the Lord’s Day is treated like any other day, not just in the world but in the church. It is a day for recreation, for family, for a football game, for camping. Attendance at worship services goes down on long weekends and in summer months. Second services have fallen away. This is not a problem in society. They never loved God and His Word and the Sabbath. But the winds of pleasure and of money have blown into the church and fanned out the love of God’s people. Now, because they have become lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, the worship of God and the preaching and the hearing of the Word of God has lost its attraction. So, because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold.
Now we see the warning and the danger here. We should not think of lawlessness merely in terms of murder and burglary and riots and adulteries and scandals and homosexual marriage and the kingdom of Antichrist to come, but this lawlessness is a self-love. Rather than loving God, man loves himself. I love myself and I use this world for myself, for my pleasures. Then my love for God waxes cold. That is the warning that Jesus gives. That is the warning of the days of Noah and the days of Lot also. They were eating and drinking and marrying. There is nothing wrong with eating, there is nothing wrong with drinking, there is nothing wrong with marrying. But these things became their gods. They loved good food; they loved the glass of wine; they loved marrying—they put those things first and their love for God waxed cold and wickedness abounded.
So we have to watch and be careful and be on our guard. We have to understand the importance here of personal obedience to the law of God and that it is closely connected to our love for God, not only in this way, that our love shows itself by obedience, but also in this way, that when we disobey, our love for God will deteriorate. It will grow cold.
We often get the idea that we can have a fervent love for God and then go out and indulge in some sin. We are wrong. It is impossible. You cannot sit and watch the world’s entertainment and take in the filth of the world and then, when the credits are done on the movie, go and pick up the Bible and read and pray with your wife and family with a clear conscience. No, our love for God will grow cold if we deliberately walk in sin and open the windows of our soul to sin.
So, do you have your first love? Are you watching, and are you aware of the danger of abounding lawlessness to your love for God?
How do we respond? What is our calling in a world where lawlessness abounds? We should not be surprised by this. Jesus tells us these things as things that will really happen in the last days. So Peter says in I Peter 4 that we should not think it strange when these things begin to happen. At the same time, though, we should be opposed to the wickedness of the world. That opposition does not have this hope that we are going to change the world and stem the tide of evil. But more this: that there is a spiritual resistance to the world and its influences. That spiritual resistance expresses itself in a spiritual separation from the world—not participating in the way of life in the world. In this way we are spiritually prepared and watching for the day of Jesus Christ. Then we are ready for the day when He will come. There will be an open conflict in this world between Christians and the godless and lawless society in which we live. We prepare ourselves for that day by separating ourselves from the evils of the world and training our minds by the Word of God and not the entertainment and education and acceptance that is purported in our society.
That means that we have to oppose sin in our own hearts. That is the aim of Jesus’ warning here. There is lawlessness and there is pride and there is resistance in our hearts to the Word and the law of God and we need to repent of that and cherish instead in our hearts a love for God and feed that love, not damage it. This is really what ought to terrify us about the lawlessness of the last days—not that it is all around us, but that, because of it, our love could grow cold.
So, just as a man who loves his wife would never do anything to jeopardize that love and that relationship, so we fix our love on God and on Jesus Christ our Husband who is to come. Then we depend on the preserving grace of God and His promises.
In the next verse (v. 13) Jesus says, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” That is a wonderful promise. We depend on the means of grace, we depend on God Himself to feed our souls to life eternal and to keep the flame of our love for Him alive. Then, when we see the wickedness around us and when we become aware of sin and its influences in our hearts and in our lives, we cry out the more earnestly, “Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly.”
Let us pray.
Father, keep us, keep us from the evil of our day, keep us alert to the evil in our own hearts and the attractiveness of sin. Help us to be repentant. Keep us pure, separate spiritually from the world around us, and keep us fixed on Jesus Christ in faith, looking for the day when He will come. May our souls be like the souls of Lot, righteous souls that are vexed day by day as we wait for Jesus’ return. Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly. Amen.
Dear Radio Friends,