And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:12-14 ESV)
Over the last few months as a church we have been receiving some great teaching on two ideas that seem to be opposites: first, that Christians will suffer persecution; and second, that the gospel, and specifically the resurrection, is a triumphal victory that must inform our hope, our attitudes, and our emotions. So which is it? Is the Church advancing as the gospel of the kingdom spreads or is it dying as persecution and the “increase of lawlessness” makes everyone cold? How should we feel about the advance of the gospel? Optimism? Pessimism? Fear? Excitement?
In Matthew 24, above, Jesus says that our world is going to get colder, not hotter. As time goes by, people love God and one another less – love grows cold as sin increases. The cold snap is coming and the northern, glacier chill is heading our way. This is very much what we are experiencing in Canada today. Persecution is on its way and in many ways is already here. Suffering for Christ (and with Christ!) is inescapable, as we have learned from 1 Peter.
So what should our attitude be in the midst of this?
Simple – Jesus gives us our marching order in verse 14: “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
My dad is a high school music teacher – a band teacher. And he’s a good one. One thing I have learned about band teachers is that they are eccentric creatures. You need to possess a certain wildness to inflict yourself daily to roomfuls of teenagers with instruments. My dad’s good friend, Rick, is also one of these strange animals. Dad and Rick were music-teaching buddies and our family and Rick’s family spent a lot of time together and often in the summer we would go camping. And whoever has camped on the West Coast knows that rain and damp wood means starting a fire is always a bit of a challenge.
Rick had a solution for this wet-wood-worriment.
Rick had a tigertorch.
Forget kindling and newspaper – just get a big, old tank of propane and a tigertorch. That’ll start a fire! Rick would just start blazing away until that wet wood burned on its own.
So then, as John Piper once said, our job is to “torch the glacier with the gospel.”
Take your can of propane, grab you tigertorch, and have at ‘er!
If we believe Jesus, then there is every reason for hope even as things get a little chilly – the Church is growing around the world, even as things for us appear to be heading downhill. That happens. North Africa was once a bastion of righteousness. Not so anymore.
So we ought to have an optimistic realism about these things. We are in a spiritual war. We will take casualties. It will hurt. Following our Leader, we will need to bear the cross before we wear the crown. Yet we should expect to see the kingdom of God being realized here and around the world. So we have to maintain a gospel-fueled hope even in the face of opposition, persecution, and frostbite.
I need to ask you some hard questions:
In your view of the end times, as things start to come to a close, just how far do you expect the kingdom to advance? How “Christianized” might our country become? Would a return to “Christendom” be all that bad? Are we afraid of that?
Dream a little bigger O ye Baptists of little faith.
Can we really take this city for Jesus? There is nothing in my view of the end times that says we can’t.
Why not try?