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THE FOURTH TURNING AND THE SECOND COMING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, April 12, 2009

“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3).


I want you to turn in the Bible to Matthew 24:3. The Disciples asked Jesus, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). And Jesus answered them by giving a lengthy series of prophecies concerning the time of the end. I want us to read seven verses in Matthew, chapter twenty-four. In these verses Christ is answering their question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Let us stand and read verses eight through fourteen.

“All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:8-14).

You may be seated.

The old-time Bible teacher Dr. M. R. DeHaan, in his great book, Signs of the Times (Kregel Publications, 1996 edition, p. 53) said, “In the first fourteen verses of Matthew 24 [Christ] gives ten definite signs, which, when they come to pass, He says, will establish the nearness of His return and the end of this present age…” I am going to discuss two of these signs tonight, because I believe we are now living in that period, very near the end of the world as we know it, and the Second Coming of Christ.

I. First, the sign of the world-wide persecution of Christians.

They asked Jesus,

“What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3).

He gave them several signs, and then He said,

“All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake” (Matthew 24:8-9).

Throughout the world tonight Christians are being persecuted at an unprecedented rate. More Christians were killed simply for being Christians in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined. It is happening in China, in Africa, in the Arabic-speaking world, in Cuba, parts of Central America, Southeast Asia, North Korea, and in many other places.

One young man from China was highly offended when he heard me say that Chinese Christians are being persecuted. He said, “I never heard of it.” I said, “Of course you never heard of it. It is not recorded in the official Communist-controlled Chinese newspapers and schools. They cover it up and don’t report it.” I gave him a copy of a book on the Communist Chinese government’s persecution of churches, published by the Voice of the Martyrs. I told him to read the reports on their website at www.persecution.com.

David Aikman, former Beijing Bureau chief of Time magazine, in his famous book, Jesus in Beijing, said,

Police raids [in central China] led to the arrest, beating, and torture of several [Christians]. In a raid in August 2001, the leader of the Church of South China, Gong Shengliang, was captured, beaten, tortured…and sentenced to death…One woman, Gu Xuegui, was tortured to death in prison in September 2001. Several other women were tortured in prison with an infamous Chinese invention called dian bang (“electric stick”). [The “electric stick”] has been used extensively…in China…[It] can deliver an electric shock of very high voltage, enough to cause extreme pain. After meeting…with members of the Church of South China who had been arrested, beaten, and tortured, New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristoff narrated how “interrogators stomped on the fingers of male prisoners and stripped young women naked and abused them.” The abuse, according to the women who survived to tell their story, included applying the [“electric stick”] to their breasts and [other] organs (David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing, Regnery Publishing, 2003, page 239).

These Chinese men and women were tortured, and many of them killed, simply for being real Christians. Aikman went on to say,

In the spring of 2003 some astonishing photographs appeared on the Internet depicting Chinese police officers torturing Chinese Christians, all with names attached…One of the more hideous photographs shows Cai Xiangdong, a Christian in his forties, being pinned down on the floor…as [a] policeman called Xie pours water into his stomach through his mouth. This torture is sometimes called “Chinese water torture” (ibid., p. 229).

I could give you examples Christians being persecuted in Vietnam, Indonesia, Iran, Ethiopia, Cuba, and many other areas of the world. But remember that Jesus said,

“Ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake”
       (Matthew 24:9).

I believe that the persecution of Christians could come to Europe and the United States in the near future.

In their book, The Fourth Turning (Broadway Books, 1997), sociologists Neil Strauss and William Howe say there have been three major “turnings” in American history – at the time of the Revolutionary War, at the time of the Civil War, and during the Roosevelt era in the 1930s and early 40s. But they predicted, in 1997, that there would be a “fourth turning” in the first decade of the 21st century.

I believe we may well be experiencing that “fourth turning” right now, during the presidency of Barack Obama. In the last election Sarah Palin was attacked night after night on prime-time television news for being an evangelical Christian. And one news story after the other shows that there seems to be a growing hatred toward Christianity in all its forms by large segments of our society, a growing alienation against Christianity, not just the evangelicals, but even against the Catholic Church. Where will this lead? We cannot say for certain, but it is clear that the churches and the believers in America are in for some rough times in the next few years. I believe that it will become increasingly popular to attack Christians in America and Europe, simply for being Christians, as this age draws to a close.

Let me give you just one example of why I think that is true. Mr. Wilkerson, my friend of forty-nine years, is here with us tonight. He is a retired school teacher in his late seventies. About a year ago Mr. Wilkerson was sent by the Gideons International to distribute Bibles on the sidewalk outside a public school. A security guard “got rather nasty” with Mr. Wilkerson for giving out free Bibles on a public sidewalk. A few minutes later a woman came out of the school and said, “You have no right to give these children Bibles.” She yelled and screamed at Mr. Wilkerson all the way to his bus stop. Mr. Wilkerson told her he had a Constitutional right to give away Bibles in a public place. She said, “I don’t care what the Constitution says, you have no right to give Bibles away.” Mr. Wilkerson said he was shocked at her screaming, and the behavior of the guards. Welcome to the twenty-first century! Welcome to the “fourth turning!”

I believe that such incidents will appear small in the future, as the dark clouds of persecution against Christians spread across our land!

“Ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake”
       (Matthew 24:9).

But Jesus gave another “sign” in this same passage of Scripture.

II. Second, the sign of the world-wide spread of the Gospel.

In verse 14, Jesus gave this remarkable sign. While Christians are “hated of all nations” (Matthew 24:9), at that very same time,

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

And that is literally happening tonight! With the advent of the Internet, and the gigantic revivals in the Third World, the message of Jesus Christ is exploding, like it did in the first century! Take China alone. The American Bible Society gave a very conservative estimate of what is happening over there when they recently said that 16,500 people become new Christians every day in China. That would be 700 conversions to Christ every hour, twenty-four hours a day – 16,500 every day, seven days a week. That’s what the American Bible Society says is happening in China! (R. Lamar West, president, American Bible Society, mailing, April, 2009). Revivals like this are sweeping millions of people into the arms of Jesus Christ today, making this one of the most exciting periods of Christian growth in world history!

Remember the question the Disciples asked Jesus,

“What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3).

The secular enemies of Christianity also believe that the world is coming to an end. They talk about it all the time. That is why they are so concerned about global warming. They know that our planet is headed toward destruction. Yet they have no real hope.

But we as Christians have hope because we know that these are signs of His coming, signs that point to the return of Jesus Christ to set up His Kingdom on earth,

“And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

We are about to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. In the Apostle Paul’s great passage on the Lord’s Supper, he said,

“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come” (I Corinthians 11:26).

Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. They buried His dead body in a tomb, “sealing the stone, and setting a watch” (Matthew 27:66). But Christ broke the chains of death and rose from the grave on Easter Sunday morning. He ascended back to Heaven, to the right hand of God. He is coming again to set up His Kingdom on earth. We serve a living Christ! That’s what Easter is all about! Come to Christ by faith and He will forgive your sins and you will be born again! He is a living Christ, mighty to save! As the evangelist Paul Rader put it in one of his songs, “He who was dead is alive again.”

Mary beheld Him, and “Master!” cried, After He came from the tomb;
Suddenly Jesus stood in their midst, Entered the tight shut room.
He who was dead is alive again! He who was dead is alive again!
Broken the strong, icy clutches of death – He who was dead is alive again!

Peter beheld Him there on the shore, Ate with Him there by the sea;
Jesus was saying, with lips once dead, Peter, dost thou love Me?
He who was dead is alive again! He who was dead is alive again!
Broken the strong, icy clutches of death – He who was dead is alive again!

Thomas beheld Him there in the room, Called Him his Master and Lord,
Put forth his fingers into the holes Made by the nails and sword.
He who was dead is alive again! He who was dead is alive again!
Broken the strong, icy clutches of death – He who was dead is alive again!
   (“Alive Again” by Paul Rader, 1878-1938).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Alive Again” (by Paul Rader, 1878-1938).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE FOURTH TURNING AND THE SECOND COMING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3).

(Matthew 24:8-14)

I.   First, the sign of the world-wide persecution of Christians,
Matthew 24:8-9.

II.  Second, the sign of the world-wide spread of the Gospel,
Matthew 24:14, 30; I Corinthians 11:26; Matthew 27:66.