What can a sincere believer in the Lord Jesus Christ expect in this year 2000? What can a faithful church expect in the coming year?
The Lord Himself answers that question. He said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Again He said, “Ye shall be hated of all men for my sake.”
The Lord is telling us that there can never be a union between believers and unbelievers; between the wicked world and the true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason for this is not because of anything in ourselves, but because of Christ. The Lord said to us in John 15:19, “If ye were of the world (that is, spiritually belong to a fallen world), the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” If you are one who courts the favor and approval of the present world of sin, you cannot be His disciple. All who live godly in Christ Jesus must expect to be reproached, ridiculed, and hated for His sake. They shall be called the off-scouring of the world.
That hatred will become even more pronounced in this year as the end of the world draws near. The Lord taught us that as the days of sin grow darker and sin abounds, and the love of many grows cold, and His Word is rejected, this hatred will grow in its intensity, the hatred of a religious world, a false religious world, a hatred which will be experienced even in one’s own family by his brothers and sisters, by his children and parents.
But we believe that all things are directed of God. We believe that the Scriptures teach us that it must be manifest on earth that there is no spiritual union between Christ and the devil, between those that are of Christ and those who yet belong to a fallen world.
Are you standing, as a believer, in the love of God and in the truth of His Word? Do you love that truth and love that Word? Is it very plain to those around you that you walk in the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you do not deny Him? Then, says the Lord, you can also expect this: you shall be hated for His sake.
But do not be discouraged. For the Lord said, “Rejoice and be exceeding glad.” Look to His promise that He will also give you grace that you might stand and speak and be faithful.
The Lord calls us today, in His Word, to endure unto the end. You may find those words for yourself in Mark 13:9-13. There the Lord said, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
Hear those words. The word “endure” means “to abide under, to bear up courageously, to bear under the strain.” The Lord is considering the place of His children in the world as they await His return. He says that the place may be summed in the word “endure,” bear up under the pressure which will be put on our faith. The Lord did not picture the place of His true believers in this present world as a joy-ride. He did not look at it as a time to kick up our feet and await for the Lord’s return with a little R-and-R in this world. The Lord did not say, “As you await My return, go about to seek your fortune, have a blast. And at the end you will be whisked away to a higher level of spirituality.” That is nonsense. Is that the way you look at your place in this world as a confessing believer? Do you look at your life as being similar to that of the world in most respects except that you have this insurance, this spiritual insurance, that when the end comes the Lord will bring you to Himself? The Lord says that all who belong to Him will endure. In the words of Hebrews 10, they shall go through a great fight of afflictions; they shall be subjected to pressures and stress against their faith. They must be given My grace in order that they may bear up and endure unto the end.
Endure against what? From the Lord’s words in Mark 13 the answer is very plain. Endure against the great opposition directed against all who have attachment to Christ by faith and who confess His Word and gospel. The Lord said, “You shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake. You shall be delivered up to trials for a testimony of My gospel.” The Lord is saying that faithful adherence to Him and faithful adherence to His Word and gospel will bring strong, frightening, and cutting opposition.
There is no way to escape His words. The idea of many in the church that we may expect a universal, general acceptance of Christ on the part of the world and a general victory of the gospel and the entrance of a Christian age – this is a false doctrine. It is not the truth of God’s Word. The Lord teaches, without mistake, that there shall always be opposition to the treasure of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God is unmistakable. His Word is as a sharp two-edged sword to save or to invoke the deepest resentments and hatred against whoever would confess that Word. Opposition will come especially when the church stands faithful to publish, to testify, to witness, and to preach that gospel. When the grace of God works within your heart the wonder of all wonders that you submit to the Word of God and you find in Jesus Christ your full salvation, then the Lord says, “Watch out! As the end of the world draws near, there shall be increased, mounting opposition against you.”
Look at the Lord’s words. Read them yourself. Mark 13:9, “But take heed to yourselves.” Why? The Lord goes on: “for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten (that is, flogged): and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.” They will deliver you up. They will try to intimidate you. They will try to move you away from your confession of the gospel. You will be brought before religious and civil authorities. Religious authorities, that is, those who take the name of Christ but despise His gospel and teach that salvation is by man’s work and will, they shall oppose you. And that has continued throughout history. At the time of the reformation of the church the reformers were burned at the stake, and today there are those who are militant against the true church of Christ, imprisoning those who would witness of Jesus Christ. Laws are calculated to put the believer in fear regarding the proper discipline of His children. And on and on we could go.
As the end grows near, it shall become worse and worse. The Lord said, there shall be the betrayal of family members. Brothers shall betray brother unto death; the father the son; the children shall rise up against their parents, He said, and shall cause them to be put to death. Natural ties, ties that we would look to for allegiance, trust, and loyalty shall be shattered because of Christ. As Cain killed Abel; as Absalom sought to kill David; as Athaliah, the wicked queen, sought to kill all the royal seed of Judah, so the believer shall experience in this present life. There is nothing so painful, nothing so agonizing, nothing so crushing as when we see the sword of Christ’s Word divide even in our own flesh and blood, when one’s brother, one’s father, one’s child turns in hatred against him for Christ’s sake.
The Lord said, not only shall it be on a personal level. But it shall be universal. Ye shall be hated of all men for My sake. The word “hated” means hated. It does not mean loved less. What is the warning of Christ? It is this: All who will confess attachment to Him and to His Word must be ready for this: opposition, strong, hateful, murderous opposition to Him and His Word. Not just a surface irritation, not just a polite difference of opinion. But you will experience the opposition of a world of unbelief.
Why? The reason is plain. The true, biblical gospel will always be hated by mankind, both religious and non-religious. For it is only by grace, when our hearts have been opened, that we see its beauty. Unless the grace of Almighty God and the power of the Holy Spirit slay our proud heart and resurrect in its place a new heart of love for God, there will be and can only be opposition to Christ’s gospel and Word.
When Christ came to the synagogue of Nazareth (as we read in Luke 4), and He preached to them that on that day the Scriptures were fulfilled, and He spoke to them of God’s way of showing mercy to Naaman and the widow of Zarephath, that God would save through Jesus Christ by grace alone -what did the people do that day? They tried to cast Him off the cliff. When Paul came to Corinth and saw both Jew and Greek and he knew that there was a deep-seated enmity against the gospel, he wasted no time in attempting to make the gospel attractive to man’s standards. He did not try to avoid all offensiveness in his message. But he preached the Word. And the result was – opposition. Why? Because the gospel of God’s grace exposes our sin. It tells us that we have a problem. And our problem is sin against God. We are people who are filled with pride. You, of yourself, and I, of myself, are a stench in God’s nostrils. We have nothing and we can do nothing. We can only be saved by God’s grace through the dying of another – the Lord Jesus Christ who dies for us. And, apart from grace, we will not humble ourselves under the judgment of God. That is why.
This is very humbling. But it is very comforting. It is comforting because we find in this Lord Jesus Christ all of our salvation. We find that living in attachment to Him by the gift of faith is life eternal. Therefore, Christ is more important than anything else. More important that this world. For His sake we stand ready to endure whatever hatred comes against us. Do you love Him? Do you love Him as Savior, Lord, and Redeemer?
When other girls ridicule you for how you dress, because you want to dress purely; when other guys ridicule you because you will not drink, because you believe that your body is the Lord’s; when other people at work ridicule you for going to church on Sunday, do you confess Him? Do you speak of the wonder of His love to you? At the office, when your fellow workers tell the dirty jokes and give their exploits of the weekend, do you join in; do you laugh; or do you confess Him, the name of your Savior? Jesus said: “The world will love its own.” Live by faith in Christ and you will receive opposition.
But the Lord said that this opposition has a purpose. The purpose is that you may give a testimony. That is what the Lord said in Mark 13. The Lord was saying there that those who hate Him and hate His Word think that they are in control. But they are not. The Bible teaches us in Psalm 21:7that even the wrath of man shall praise God, it shall fulfill God’s designs. So God says, through this opposition, I create a marvelous opportunity in order that you may witness of Me, that you might stand and give a testimony.
We read in Acts 23:11 this word of God to Paul who has been imprisoned: “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” The evil treatment and the threats that are brought against you, Paul, are being used in My mighty hand to provide the way for testimony, testimony before all the world.
So God says to you, as a believer, “Walk godly in Christ Jesus. Do His will.” And believe that God directs your moments in order that He may give you an opportunity to speak of the life, of the hope, and of the love of God in your heart, that you may testify of that which is true and real.
Very often those moments will come to us not in the way of our choosing, not in the way of our planning. And they will not come very often before cheering and accepting crowds, sessions of Congress. But the Lord says it may well come in a prison cell, or in a courtroom.
Christ promises that He will give us grace to speak. He says: “Do not meditate ahead of time what ye shall speak. For whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye. For it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.” Do not abuse that verse that I just quoted to you from Mark 13:11. There are some who have abused that verse and said, “Ministers ought not study. They should not labor over syntax and grammar and the original languages. They should not try to construct an edifying sermon. They can just get up there, open the Bible, and the Holy Spirit will fill their mouth.” I must tell you that if that is the case, the only thing the Holy Spirit has ever said to me if I tried to preach a sermon was, “You have been negligent; you have been lazy.” No, our calling is always to study and to immerse ourselves in the Word of God and to hide that Word, in the words of Psalm 119:9, in the deepest recesses of our hearts.
The promise is this: At the moment when you are unsettled emotionally and filled with fear and terror, you need not be anxious and bite your nails. But in calm reliance on the faithfulness of God, believe that God will give you the words to speak. The Lord whom you serve is able to deliver you, to give you words. Even when hatred is before you, even when the word of your God is being misrepresented and maligned, even when it seems impossible that you shall receive a fair hearing, do not sit there wondering, doubting, anxious, but believe that God has brought you to that point and He will give you the words to speak. Do not look to yourself. But believe that the Lord will now work through you. Nothing is ever going to stop the spread of the gospel.
That gospel, says the Lord, shall be published among all nations. There is something that is wonderful in the Lord’s words. Let me read again Mark 13:10, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations.” I hear there the unshakable certainty of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel must be preached. Later on, in verse 31 of the chapter, Jesus says, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” There is no power that exists that can thwart, silence, or extinguish the gospel. No matter if all the world’s mighty assemble together, no matter if the mainstream of thought be atheistic, and immoral, no matter if all men and women gather together to banish to oblivion the “thus saith” of the Word of God, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh. The Lord shall hold them in derision.” There is one invincible power on earth. There is one cause that shall not go down to defeat in this present world, only one: the holy gospel. God, by His Word, in the midst of the opposition of a world of unbelief, will gather His church and send forth His Word to save. Therefore, we say with the apostle: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.”
What is our calling in this year? The calling of the church of Jesus Christ is this: Preach the Word. Whatever comes, your church must not be moved from the primacy of the preaching of the gospel to the ends of the earth. The Lord speaks of the fact that there shall be disheartening and destructive things that we can expect before He returns. He says that before He returns there will be a general carelessness that will fall in among many. The love of many will wax cold. People who once had a conscience which smote them if they missed church or did not read the Bible; people who used to jump up to turn the TV off when things appeared which were evil; these people are no longer troubled. They can stay away from church and enjoy ungodliness hour after hour. There is no longer a love of truth among them. The Lord says, nevertheless, let the church preach the Word. And let not the church be paralyzed into inactivity. For My sake, continue with a heart of zeal to preach the Word.
The calling to you: Abide in faithful attachment to Jesus Christ. Yes, opposition will come. It will come to you. But the Lord will be faithful unto you. He will keep you. So He calls us to endure. He that overcometh, the same shall be saved, says the book of Revelation. That is not by our strength. That is by the strength of our Lord through faith. We shall overcome, according to the book of Revelation, by the blood of the Lamb and by loving not our lives even unto death. We shall overcome by looking unto Him who has suffered and died and now lives in our hearts.
Stand today. Live in attachment to Jesus Christ. Count all things worthless, save for the excellency of Christ and His word. And Christ is going to keep you, even unto the end. Be thou faithful even unto death.
God grant it. Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. We pray that Thou wilt now seal it unto our hearts, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whom is all of our boast and glory. Amen.