In John’s gospel the full significance of an incident recorded there might elude us. When the disciples asked Jesus whether the blind man’s affliction was a punishment for his or his parents’ sins, the answer was ‘neither’. The man born blind came to this moment when the power of God would be manifested in his life. Jesus restored his sight, saying,
I must work the works of Him that sent me,
While it is day:
The night cometh when no man can work. (John 9. 4)
These prophetic words reinforce the chapter read this morning from Isaiah predicting God’s judgments to come on the earth; a prophecy, not unfamiliar to Christ--he was the very subject of chapter 53, for one. In the New Testament Matthew records Jesus’ excoriation of the Scribes and Pharisees, where we can clearly see the reason behind God’s displeasure with the world:
Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat,
And swallow a camel. Woe unto you,
Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
For ye make clean the outside of the cup
And of the platter, but within
They are full of extortion and excess. (Mat 24. 24 – 25)
These remarks need not have been limited to the Scribes and Pharisees. Generally speaking, the P. T. Barnum’s of this world have grown rich off silly, shallow people in every generation. Gullibility and stupidity are as evident in this Age of Enlightenment as in the Dark Ages.
The world of politics, for example, is littered with dirt. A well known Massachusetts senator was responsible for the death of a man’s daughter at Chappaquiddick Bridge in a scandal that continued for months; a certain congressman from Pennsylvania, indicted for bribery, was re-elected by a landslide; one Washington DC opportunist, recently married the most notorious woman in America and was afterward elected senator in the state of Virginia—these all just a tip of the iceberg.
In the religious world interpreters of the Bible have taken the supernatural out of religion, leaving it sterile and arid, an institutionalized, lifeless entity. Some church members appear to be carried about by every wind of doctrine, led by the craftiness and cunning of men who lie in wait to deceive (Eph 4. 4), and followers are caught up in the cult of personality, not creeds. These leaders all have the same peculiarity of style. Their overriding message is to send money—most to a Canadian address. Money to build a crystal palace, or tabernacle, or prayer room, to carry the gospel message or to build a new university that will be truly Christian. One problem with this is that their faith is tied to a single person who, like all men, has feet of clay. When he crumbles, will his followers survive? Will CBN survive without Pat Robertson? The Thomas Street Baptist Church without Falwell? Much of converted Christianity today is without content, so says Christianity Today (10/6/78, p.54) which reads:
Successful evangelists in their institutes
Teach their lesser colleagues how to
Be successful by avoiding to speak about
Sin. Worse, many people never seem to
Be taught just what conversion means.
They register a decision for Christ, but
There is no content to it .Conversion is a
Change of mood, of friends, of opinions,
But not of daily life. It does not reach the
Level of behavior. It does not include
In short, there is no backbone when you lack a bedrock faith.
The paramount deity of the non- religious world in which we live is science. Let a man quote the Bible, and he is laughed at. But let him pontificate a weird assembly of unsupportable speculations in the name of science, and the world receives it humbly, marveling at his wisdom. Nowadays it’s not fashionable to think of a special creation. In the new Harper’s Dictionary of modern thought, the word ‘creation’ does not appear as a heading. At one time, everybody used to know about Bishop Ussher (1581 – 1656) and his writings on Bible chronology. An Irish Anglican of great learning, he fixed the Adamic creation at 4004 BC. His name is not to be found in the encyclopedic Interpreter’s Bible; in the library, only a brief biographical sketch. Who can know about Bishop Usshur? He might turn out to have been right after all. The non-religious world has a new hero these days: one who is laid back, cool, insouciant. He dresses in quiet good taste; has meaningful relationships with others; only surveys the passing scene, makes no moral judgments.
While all these things are happening, what’s really happening? Man’s world is rapidly coming to an end. Not the earth, you understand, because the earth is what God intends to glorify. How do we know this? By God’s word, spoken through the prophets. The Jews are now re-gathered as prophesied, now a strong nation. But Israel stands in jeopardy every hour because no solution can be found to the insoluble problem of Arab vs Jew. The implacable Palestinians want all the land of Israel, no doubt, and that includes Jerusalem, which can never be divided. The Jews will never acquiesce to this. The biblical King of the North (Russia) is gathering strength. Her might has increased to become one of the mightiest nations in the world, although hungry for a reliable oil supply. Whatever happens, America will not turn its back on Israel. One reason is, so much wealth and power in America resides, I suspect, in Jewish hands.
If we read the prophets correctly, however, nations that surround Israel will inevitably strike. The return of Christ will not come to pass until some cataclysmic events occur. The whole world must apparently suffer first. Unfortunately, it is not likely that you will go to bed tonight and Christ will have come back tomorrow. Listen to the remarkable similarity of these scriptures, and think for yourself if they are limited to Israel alone.
Isa 24. 1 – 4, 20 - Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty,
And makes it waste, and turns it upside down, and scatters
Abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people,
So with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master;
As with the maid, so with her mistress; As with the buyer, so with the seller;
As with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury,
So with the giver of usury to him. The land shall be utterly emptied,
And utterly spoiled: for the Lord has spoken this word.
The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away;
The haughty people of the earth do languish.
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard,
And shall be removed like a cottage;
And the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it;
And it shall fall and not rise again.
Matt 24. 21, 29 – (Olivet discourse) - For there shall be great tribulation
Such as was not since the beginning of the world
To this time, no, nor ever shall be.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days
Shall he sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
And the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of
The heaven shall be shaken.
Luke 21. 25, 26 - And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon,
And in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations,
With perplexity: the sea and the waves roaring;
Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after
Those things which are coming on the earth:
For the powers of the heaven shall be shaken.
And then shall they see the son of man coming in a cloud
With power and great glory.
Mark 13. 19, 24 – 26 (universal) – For in those days shall be affliction,
Such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created, to
This time, neither shall be.
But in those days after that tribulation, the sun shall
Be darkened and the moon shall not give her light,
And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers
That are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see
The son of man coming in the clouds,
With great power and glory.
Rev 6. 12 – 17 – and I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal,
And lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as
Sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood:
And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, even as a fig tree
Casts her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together:
And every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
And the kings of the earth and the great men
And the rich men and the chief captains,
And the mighty men, and every bondman,
And every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks
Of the mountains;
And said to the mountains and rocks,
Fall on us and hide us from the face of him
That sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
For the great day of his wrath is come;
And who shall be able to stand?
Dan 12. 1, 2 – At that time shall Michael stand up,
The great Prince which stands for the children of thy people:
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation
Even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall
Be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth
Shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some
To shame and everlasting contempt.
Joel 3. 9 – 16 (Arabs only? I think not) – Proclaim you this among the Gentiles:
Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near:
Let them come up:
Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears,
Let the weak say, I am strong.
Assemble yourselves and come, all ye heathen,
And gather yourselves together roundabout:
Thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O L:ord.
Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the
Valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.
Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you own;
For the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision:
For the day of the Lord is near in the Valley of decision.
The sun and the moon shall be darkened,
And the stars shall withdraw their shining.
The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem;
And the heavens and the earth shall shake:
But the Lord will be the hope of his people;
And the strength of the children of Israel.
There’s more scripture to this point, but you get the message. It’s going to be worse than Hitler, worse than World Wars I and II. All these scriptures are talking about the same time in world history—tribulation at the time of the end.
The last time we talked, it was about putting on the armor of light because the ‘night is far spent and the day is at hand’. Did you hear the message? Can you see the signs? Today we live well, our lives are comfortable. Indeed, life is good. You have to wonder, in light of these scriptures of the ‘day spent and the night at hand’, how much time remains for us to draw nigh to God , believing He will draw nigh to us.
And when the laborers came
that were hired about the eleventh hour,
they received every man a penny. (Matt 20. 9)