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WHY CHURCHES ARE SLUMBERING AND COLD

(THE CHURCHES OF THE LAST DAYS – PART I)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, October 13, 2013

“None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).


The twelfth chapter of Daniel contains several prophecies about the end of the world. In verse one we read about the Great Tribulation period. In verse two we are told of the rapture of true Christians, and the resurrection of the damned. In verse four world-wide travel is predicted in “the time of the end.” In verses five through seven we are told about the last three and a half years of the Tribulation period. But verses eight and nine are also quite interesting. Look at them. The prophet said,

“I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? [what will be the outcome of all this?] And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up [concealed] till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:8, 9).

Look up, please.

Though Daniel was a witness to these coming events, he did not understand what it all meant. God reminded him that these things would take place at the end of time, but they would be concealed until then. Then, at “the time of the end” – “knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4). Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “I believe that refers to knowledge of prophecy” (Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1982, volume III, p. 605; note on Daniel 12:4).

I think Dr. McGee was basically right. The knowledge of Bible prophecy was not really illuminated by the Holy Spirit very much until the second half of the nineteenth century. As God said to Daniel, “The words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9). Preaching on Bible prophecy was extremely popular among conservative Christians for much of the twentieth century, as we moved into the end-time. But also, very interestingly, the study of Bible prophecy began to go out of fashion in the 1980s. Today one hardly ever hears a sermon on prophecy in our churches. I believe that both of those events are given in the twelfth chapter of Daniel. Daniel was told that knowledge of Bible prophecy would increase in “the time of the end.” But then he was told,

“...the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

Dr. McGee gave these comments,

      “None of the wicked shall understand” refers to the natural man. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14).
      “But the wise shall understand.” “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13).
         (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., ibid.).

That gives us one of the reasons there is little preaching on prophecy in our churches today. It’s because many of our preachers have never been converted – so their eyes are closed on this extremely important subject. The older men were more spiritual. But it seems to me that a large number of our younger preachers are so carnal, many have never been born again. Therefore we have heard very few sermons on Bible prophecy for the past twenty-five years or so. It’s a real shame. As my associate Dr. Cagan says, “At the very time these prophecies are being fulfilled, the younger preachers have stopped speaking on prophecy almost completely.” When was the last time you heard a whole sermon devoted to Bible prophecy? Dr. Criswell is gone! Dr. McGee is gone! Dr. M. R. DeHaan is gone! Now about all we hear is pabulum, spooned out by soft spoken men who seem too afraid of controversy to tell people what they need to hear! Billy Graham is now 95 years old. You’re not going to hear him preach on prophecy again. I disagreed with Billy Graham on “decisionism,” but not on Bible prophecy. In 1965 he wrote a truly hard-hitting book on Bible prophecy titled, World Aflame (Doubleday and Company). In the book Billy Graham gave this description of the end-times,

      Jesus said there would be a future generation with certain characteristics to indicate that the end is near. In other words, there is an “X generation” at some point...where all the signs converge [and come together]...Those whose hearts have been transformed by Jesus Christ, whose minds have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, will be able to read the signs of that day and to warn the people as Noah did. Today it seems that those signs are indeed converging [coming together] for the first time since Christ ascended into heaven (Billy Graham, D.D., World Aflame, Doubleday and Company, 1965, p. 216).

We now see those signs around us every day. Surely this is generation X. Surely this is “the time of the end.” But we don’t hear about it very much in our churches! I am convinced that is largely because of the carnality of many of our clergymen today.

“None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

Here are several signs given in the Bible concerning the churches of the end times.

I. First, the Bible prophesies the slumbering of end-time churches.

You must understand that the New Testament gives two simultaneous pictures of the end-time churches. For instance, we are told that “iniquity shall abound” in Matthew 24:12. And this condition will exist at the same time that the Gospel is “preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14). In the Book of Revelation we see the “great whore” of the amalgamated apostate church existing in the same period as the tremendous revival in the Tribulation period, in Revelation 7:4-17.

The other night I watched a very informative video on the explosive growth of Christianity in southern Africa (“African Christianity Rising: Christianity’s Explosive Growth in Africa,” produced and directed by James Ault, Ph.D.). One Black theologian, in the video, showed how Christianity in the northern hemisphere of the world has deteriorated, while in the southern hemisphere, and in China, there has been explosive revival. Another way of explaining this is that Christianity is cold and dying in the developed world (Europe, America, etc.) while it is alive and growing in the emerging Third World nations. To be sure, there is false doctrine in some of these churches, but that is always true in times of revival.

But we are focusing on Europe and America in this sermon. And that is important because so much of the world still looks to us, and expects us to be models of Christianity – although, in fact, even many of our best churches have largely sunk to a low, Laodicean state. I realize that some people will not be able to understand this because, as our text says,

“None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

Christ’s sermon on the Mount of Olives (The Olivet Discourse) was given to answer the Disciples’ questions, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). The rest of Matthew 24, and all of Matthew 25 were given by Christ to answer those questions, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Then in Matthew 25:1-13 He gave “the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins.”

I am convinced that this parable speaks prophetically to the condition of the churches in our half of the world. The ten virgins represent the churches. “Five of them were wise, and five were foolish” (Matthew 25:2). John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) said that the ten virgins do not refer to the church, but to the nation of Israel. But he was wrong. This parable has been seen as a reference to the churches throughout Christian history, by virtually all the great commentators and even the Church Fathers of the early days of Christianity.

Now what does the parable tell us about our churches? It says,

“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept”
       (Matthew 25:5).

Dr. McGee said, “Notice that both the wise and foolish virgins slept. The difference in them was that some had the Holy Spirit (represented by the oil) and some did not – because they were not genuine believers” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 135; note on Matthew 25:5).

So, Dr. McGee said half were saved and half were lost. That is the general picture of our churches in the West today. They are a mixture of saved people and lost people. But wait! Christ said,

“They all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5).

All of them are sleeping – both the saved and the lost! That’s what it says!

What a description of our churches in these evil days! Notice it was night time when the churches slept, “at midnight” (Matthew 25:6). I have been an eye-witness of revival coming late at night. Dr. Tozer has an essay on that called “Born After Midnight.” Why no revival today in our churches? Could it have any connection to the churches closing their evening services on Sunday night? The last area-wide revival in the Western world began late at night on the Isle of Lewis off the coast of Scotland, in 1949 – late at night! In China the “house churches” always have meetings at night. That’s one reason they are alive with revival! But our churches here in the West are too often closed on Wednesday nights as well as Sunday nights. Leonard Ravenhill said, “Sound doctrine has put most believers sound asleep...A sound sermon in faultless English and flawless interpretation can be as tasteless as a mouthful of sand...we need a fire-baptized Church...a blazing Church will attract the world, so that from its midst they will hear the voice of the living God” (Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, Bethany Fellowship, 1979, p. 106).

But that is not true in our churches today.

“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept”
      (Matthew 25:5).

God help us! Christ says to us, here in the West,

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Revelation 3:15-18).

“None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

II. Second, the Bible prophesies lack of Christian love in the end-time churches.

Christ said, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love [agapē – Christian love] of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). That is one of the signs Christ gave of the churches in the time of the end.

My long-time pastor at the Chinese church was Dr. Timothy Lin. Dr. Lin said, “Christians must love one another...Believing in our Lord is an absolute must, and loving one another is also an absolute must...May the Church of the last days think thrice about this...The early Church had God’s presence not only because the Apostles were called and sent by God, but also because the brethren loved one another” (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, FCBC, 1992, pp. 28, 29). The Bible says,

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (I John 3:14).

“Because iniquity [lawlessness] shall abound, the love [agapē – Christian love] of many shall wax [grow] cold” (Matthew 24:12).

One of the reasons for the cold, lack of love in our churches is because so many church members have never been saved. “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (I John 3:14). Dr. McGee said of Matthew 24:12, “When iniquity abounds the love of many grows cold, and this will be even more true at the end of the age” (ibid., p. 127; note on Matthew 24:12). Dr. Lin said, “May the Church of the last days think thrice about this” (ibid.).

The doors of the churches are quickly closed after most services. The people are given few opportunities to even know each other, much less love one another! So many of the people in our churches have never been truly converted – so iniquity (lawlessness) increases, and even the real Christians get discouraged and lose their love for one another. And Dr. Lin said, “May the Church of the last days think thrice about this” (ibid.).

“None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

Dr. John F. Walvoord, a highly respected commentator on prophecy, said that one of the “signs of the end of the age” is,

Increased wickedness and loss of fervent love. Jesus said that “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). This will occur in the aftermath of false doctrine [including “decisionism,” which has filled the churches with lost people]. It is all too evident that many who profess the name of Christ are worldly and have little zeal for the Lord. Like the Laodicean church in Revelation 3...

of whom Christ said, “I will spue thee out of my mouth,” Revelation 3:16 (John F. Walvoord, Th.D., Major Bible Prophecies, Zondervan Publishing House, 1991, p. 256).

“None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

Yes, far too many people in our churches in these end-times are slumbering and sleeping instead of coming to church on Sunday nights, and other evenings of the week. Far too many of them have little fellowship and love among the members because so many of them have never been truly saved. And I must quote Dr. Lin one more time. He would have completely agreed with this sermon. And he wasn’t just a Chinese pastor. He was a real scholar. He taught Semitic languages in the graduate school of Bob Jones University before coming to our church. Later he taught at Talbot Theological Seminary, and at Trinity Evangelical Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois. He ended his ministry as the president of China Evangelical Seminary in Taipei, Taiwan, following the presidency of Dr. James Hudson Taylor III. Concerning the things I am saying in this sermon, Dr. Lin said, “May the Church of the last days think thrice about this.”

“None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

These are the last days. Soon it will be too late for you to be saved. The Bible gives that warning repeatedly. The only sure time for you to be saved is now. I plead with you to come to Jesus while there is still time. I plead with you to look to Him, who hung on the Cross in great suffering, and shed His Blood to cleanse you from sin. Do not delay. Come to Him and trust Him, now, this evening!

If you want to speak with us about trusting Jesus, please leave your chair now and walk to the back of this auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place where we can talk and pray. If you would like to become a real Christian, please go to the back of the auditorium now. Dr. Chan, please pray for someone to trust Jesus and be saved this evening. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Matthew 25:1-13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Wish We'd All Been Ready” (by Larry Norman, 1947-2008).


THE OUTLINE OF

WHY CHURCHES ARE SLUMBERING AND COLD

(THE CHURCHES OF THE LAST DAYS – PART I)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

(Daniel 12:8, 9, 4; I Corinthians 2:14; John 16:13)

I.   First, the Bible prophesies the slumbering of end-time churches,
Matthew 24:12, 14, 3; 25:2, 5, 6; Revelation 3:15-18.

II.  Second, the Bible prophesies lack of Christian love in the
end-time churches, Matthew 24:12; I John 3:14.