August 9, 2010

Reason for Optimism, Part 2

In response to my previous post (about how the TV talking heads and pseudo-prophets can scare us into a gloom and doom view of the future) someone may say to me: ‘You know, pastor, it’s not just the guys on TV. The Bible itself often seems to present a pessimistic view of the future. What about the book of Revelation, or Matthew 24?’ That is a good question; and a valid objection. In fact, let me show you just how valid by reading to you a few verses from Matthew 24. Listen to Matthew 24.9-12:

Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.

Now, in light of all that I have been saying … what do I say to that? Well, I grant that it is true! Christians will be “hated by all nations”. Lawlessness will increase. People’s love will wax cold. I do not dispute those things for a moment! I simply say that Matthew 24, and the book of Revelation, and other similar passages are not the only passages in the Bible that we should consider when pondering the future! Luke 13 and Romans 11 and Revelation 7 are just as true as Matthew 24!

For instance, while it is true that, in latter days (Matthew 24.12) many people’s “love will grow cold”; it is also true, according to the apostle Paul, that in latter days (Romans 11.26) “all Israel will be saved”. In other words, while some people’s love grows cold, other’s is made hot! And while it is true that, in latter days (Matthew 24.11) “many false prophets will arise and will mislead many”; it is also true (Matthew 24.14) that “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come”! Do you see? While false prophets lead many astray, the gospel will still be quietly, successfully doing its work … all the way until the end of time! And the mustard plant will continue to grow, and the lump of dough continue to rise until (Revelation 7.9) people “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” are brought to bow at the Savior’s feet!

So yes, there are depressing realities in the world … and will continue to be. And some of them will grow even more depressing! And yet, at the same time, the leaven of the gospel (verse 21) is still being kneaded into people’s hearts all across this planet. And while our culture seems to be in a steep decline … other cultures are slowly being brought to bow their knees at Jesus’ feet! Right now the gospel is flourishing, for instance, in places like Zambia and China. This morning, while we may feel our own ground is barren, Chinese Christians are living right in the middle of Luke 13.19 … and Zambian Christians in verse 21!

So what’s my point? Simply that, while troublesome times surely lie ahead; while our own days may seem dark in many respects … the gospel is still the gospel! And as long as it is … well then the future is filled with hope for those who believe! Who knows when the seed that is being lovingly sown on the rapidly hardening soil of American culture will once again spring up and grow into a mighty tree? There is every reason to believe it will, if we keep throwing the mustard seed into the garden!

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