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LOST CHURCH MEMBERS AND SHEEP STEALING PREACHERS

(THE CHURCHES OF THE LAST DAYS – PART II)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, October 19, 2013

“And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 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 24:1-3).


Jesus went out of the temple in Jerusalem. It was the most important building in that part of the world. The Disciples came to Him. They wanted to show Him around the buildings that were adjacent to the temple. As Jesus walked away from the temple area He said to the Disciples, “Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (NIV).

When my wife and I were in Jerusalem we went to the place where the temple once stood. It is not there. The Roman general Titus came and destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The entire temple was torn down, and the stones from which it was built were scattered by the Romans. Only one of the walls outside the temple remains. It is called the “Wailing Wall.” Jewish people come to this wall from all over the world to pray for the Messiah to come and rebuild their temple. When my son Leslie was there, he had on a Jewish yarmulke. He put his hands on the Wailing Wall to pray. A rabbi thought he was a Jew. He came up behind Leslie and anointed him with oil!

The destruction of the temple by the Romans is ancient history to us. But I am sure that the Disciples were astonished when Jesus told them it would happen. He said, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” That prophecy was literally fulfilled less than forty years later by Titus and his Roman army.

Then Jesus went a short distance from the temple area to the Mount of Olives. As he sat on the side of that mountain the Disciples came to Him and asked Him two questions.

1.  When shall these things be? [When will the temple be destroyed?].

2.  What shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world – [of this age; the end of the world as we know it?].


The answer to the first question is not recorded in Matthew’s Gospel. It is recorded in Luke 21:20-24. In those verses He said that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies,

“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

The Gospel of Matthew focuses on Jesus as the King of Israel. This information does not fit there. It is recorded in Luke, which speaks in more detail about the Gentile nations.

But the answer to the second question of the Disciples is given in detail in this chapter of Matthew. They asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” He did not rebuke them for asking this question. He did not say, “There won’t be any signs.” This was the perfect opportunity for Him to do that, but instead He gave them a list of signs. These are the signs of His Second Coming and the end of the world, the end of this age. Yes, the Bible teaches that this age will end, and this world will end. Buddhism teaches that history is cyclical, it goes in endless circles. When Disney’s Lion King spoke of the circle of life, he was giving the Buddhist view of history. But the Bible teaches that history is lineal, that is, it goes in a line rather than a circle. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. God created the world out of nothing at the beginning. Jesus Christ came into the world in the middle. The world will be burned up in fire at the very end. And so they asked Him for a sign of His Second Coming and the end of this age – the end of the world as we know it. He gave them many signs.

Dr. John F. Walvoord was the president of Dallas Theological Seminary for many years. He was also a highly respected interpreter of Bible prophecy. He preached in our church back in the 1980s. Dr. Walvoord called the “signs” given by Jesus in Matthew 24:4-14, “general signs, observable now but to be fulfilled with more graphic detail in the Great Tribulation” (John F. Walvoord, Th.D., Major Bible Prophecies, Zondervan Publishing House, 1991, p. 254).

I agree with Dr. Walvoord’s statement. We see these “general signs” around us in the world today. The signs Jesus gave in Matthew 24:4-14 are these:

1.  False Christs, 24:5. I believe this refers primarily to demons that appear as Christ. In verse 24 Jesus said, “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets.” I believe these are demonic counterfeits of Christ, such as the Mormon Christ, the Jehovah’s Witness spirit-Christ, the Christ of Christian Science, the Christ, or Isa, of the Koran and Islam, the Christ of liberal Protestantism, and the “Cristo” of Roman Catholicism. The false prophets are the teachers who promote the false Christs! These are false, demonic counterfeits of Jesus. The rise of these false Christs is indeed a sign that we are living in the last days.

2.  Wars and rumors of wars. The twentieth century had two world-wide wars for the first time in history. There has been continual warfare ever since in many parts of the world.

3.  Famines. In the world today famine is destroying millions of people every year. More people have died from starvation than any other single cause in the past 100 years. We still have plenty of food in America. But the “Black Horse” of Revelation 6 has carried the horrors of famine throughout the developing world in our time.

4.  Pestilences. The correct Greek text gives this as an important sign of the end. New forms of disease, like AIDS, have caused uncountable numbers of deaths in the developing world. In many primitive places medication is not available. Bird flu and swine flu, and other untreatable pestilences are a constant threat today.

5.  Earthquakes. With the rapid increase in population, earthquakes become increasingly deadly, since they affect more and more people. The Bible predicts a monstrous earthquake just before the Second Coming of Christ. It will destroy most of the great cities of the world (Revelation 16:18-20).

6.  Martyrdom and persecution. The persecution of Christians, and even martyrdom, are characteristic of our age. Millions have died for their faith. Jesus predicted this in Matthew 24:9-10.

7.  False prophets. More false teachers and counterfeit religions have sprung up in the last 100 years than at any other time in history, including theological liberalism, which denies the Bible, and is taught in most of the major theological schools, like Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.

8.  Increased lawlessness and loss of Christian love. “Because iniquity shall abound, the love (agapē) of many shall [grow] cold” (Matthew 24:12).
         (see John F. Walvoord, ibid., pp. 354-356).


The Greek word translated “iniquity” in Matthew 24:12 means “lawlessness.” The Greek word is “anomia.” It refers to so-called “Christians” who live lawless lives. The English word is antinomian. Thus Jesus predicted that the churches of the last days would be filled with carnal and lawless antinomians. Some of the most mean-spirited people I have ever known were antinomians who claimed to be Christians. Today the churches are full of them. I could write a whole book about the way they viciously attacked me personally. Maybe I will some day. Sometimes I have felt so discouraged by their meanness that I thought about quitting the ministry. Sometimes these lawless people have been so wicked that it actually tempted me to leave the church. And that is exactly the effect they have on real Christians. Some of the meanest people I have ever known said they were born again Christians! Because of the increased lawlessness of these so-called Christians, even the “agape” love of real Christians will grow cold! That is what Christ meant in Matthew 24:12. Dr. McGee said, “When iniquity abounds, the love of many grows cold, and this will be even more true at the end of the age” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 127; note on Matthew 24:12).

My pastor for 23 years at the Chinese Baptist Church was Dr. Timothy Lin. Speaking of the churches in the last days. Dr. Lin said, “Today ‘loving one another’ is only a slogan the church chants mechanically, but cares little for...When a church does not understand the importance and essence of love..it is impossible for God to be with her” (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, FCBC, 1992, p. 33).

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

The truly converted person will be able to withstand the cruel and antagonistic spirit of “false brethren unawares brought in” (Galatians 2:4). These carnal church members bring a lot of pain and sorrow into the churches of the last days. The Bible gives a description of them.

I. First, many church members in the last days are not born again.

II Timothy 3:1-7 gives a description of lost church members in the last days. Please turn to it. Dr. John MacArthur is wrong on the Blood of Christ, but he was right when he said that this passage “does not refer to mankind in general or to the unsaved world but to members...in Christ’s church” (John MacArthur, D.D., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 2 Timothy, Moody Press, 1995, p. 108). Dr. McGee said that this passage refers to “the last days of the church” (McGee, ibid., vol. V, p. 469). He said, “We have nineteen different descriptions given in the next few verses. It is an ugly brood, but we want to look at them because they present the best picture of...the last days of the church...I believe we are now in these ‘perilous’ days which are described in this section” (McGee, ibid., pp. 469, 470). The vast number of unconverted church members today is a result of the careless evangelistic practices which stem from the ministry of Charles G. Finney (1792-1875). People are accepted as members of the churches without carefully checking their salvation testimonies. These unsaved church members are described in II Timothy 3:2-4 –

1.  “Lovers of their own selves.” Dr. McGee said, “You can find this in the churches” (ibid).

2.  “Covetous” means lovers of money. Dr. McGee said, “This follows self-love because lovers of self become lovers of money. This old nature likes to have a lot of money spent on it” (ibid.).

3.  “Boasters.”

4.  “Proud.”

5.  “Blasphemers.” The Greek word means “railers.” These are church people who are always “poking their noses into somebody else’s business” (McGee, ibid.). They are slanderers. They try their best to ruin the reputation of others in the church. That’s the basic idea.

6.  “Disobedient to parents.” Young people who have rebelled against their parents, says Dr. MacArthur, “will have no qualms about rebelling against anyone else” (ibid., p. 114). They cause great upheavals and confusion in any church.

7.  “Unthankful.” One man was given a free seminary education, and his wife a free college degree by a certain church. As soon as they got their free degrees, the man turned on the church and tried to destroy it! That’s a true story. Dr. McGee said, “Many people receive kindness from others without even thinking of thanking them” (ibid.).

8.  “Unholy.”

9.  “Without natural affection.” This means to have no affection for family or church. They are only interested in what others can do for them, because they are so self-centered.

10. “Trucebreakers.” These are people who never forgive and don’t want to be forgiven themselves. You cannot be reconciled to them. They will not keep their word. Nothing matters to them but pleasing themselves!

11. “False accusers.” “They take perverse pleasure in damaging reputations and destroying lives” (MacArthur, ibid., p. 115). There are a lot of these who call themselves “Christians.”

12. “Incontinent.” These are people who have no control over themselves.

13. “Fierce” means savage. Some of the most savage people we have ever met are church members.

14. “Despisers of those that are good.” Literally “haters of good.” They know what is right and good but they hate what is good – and they hate those who are good, as Cain hated Abel – and murdered him. There are many members in the churches today who are like Cain.

15. “Traitors.” They are people who cannot be trusted. They will even turn against their own families and friends in the church.

16. “Heady” means reckless.

17. “Highminded” means blinded by pride.

18. “Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” That says it all! These include church people who will not go to a Sunday evening service, or a midweek prayer meeting, simply because they are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”


I said that these are characteristics of church members in the last days who are lost, unconverted, not saved. That becomes clear in the next verse (II Timothy 3:5) which is number 19.

19. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Timothy 3:5).


These are church members who have an outward form of Christianity – but they have never experienced the saving power of Christ in their lives. They have not been born again. They are not real Christians. No matter how much they quote the Bible, there is only one proper way to treat them, “from such turn away.” The verb translated “turn away” is in the middle voice. It means “make yourself” turn away. No matter how nice they are, or how sweetly they talk, “make yourself” turn away from them, and stay as far away from them as possible!  The Apostle Paul said,

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says, “Shun communion with them, lest you be infected by them.” This is harsh medicine, but it is given to protect the true Christian from confusion and ruin.

II. Second, there are preachers in the last days who “steal sheep” instead of winning souls.

The Apostle says in II Timothy 3:6-7,

“For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:6-7).

This refers to pastors and teachers in churches who worm their way into the hearts of weak women and lead them into their own church or Bible study. They usually seduce women, but they can also do this with weak men, particularly weak men whose wives have been seduced by the “sheep stealer.” Dr. McGee said “‘Silly women’ means silly women of both sexes” (ibid., p. 471).

The sheep stealer, of course, will never tell you, “I’m a sheep stealer. I’m here to get you to leave your church and join mine.” One man who is a very notorious sheep stealer said to me not long ago, “I’m not a sheep stealer.” Actually this man is an expert sheep stealer, and yet he said that to me on the phone. I think these men often deceive themselves, to keep from facing their own sinfulness. They are “deceiving, and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:13).

What they do is get the prospective sheep to talk about his church. If they see that the sheep has no complaints the sheep stealer will leave him alone. But if the sheep complains to him, he will draw him out by asking smooth questions in a soft and kindly voice. If he can get the sheep to say something against his pastor, the sheep stealer will work on that point, all the time appearing to be a kind and understanding friend. In the end the sheep stealer will persuade the sheep to leave his own church and come with him. Believe it or not, there are preachers who make a career out of doing this. They have many people in their church that they seduced into coming with them. One preacher recently told me about a small town in Alabama that has 66 Baptist churches in it. He said the people float back and forth from one sheep stealer to the other. Needless to say, the spiritual level in that town must be very low, with hardly anyone truly saved. Why? Because such people are

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7).

The only way to avoid stealing sheep is for pastors not to accept members from other churches without their former church giving them a “letter” of transfer. Members should not be accepted on the basis of their “statement.” These are historic Baptist positions, which are violated by sheep stealers today.

I wish I didn’t have to preach this sermon, but Dr. Cagan told me I needed to, and I think he is right. This is a continuing problem because very few pastors in the last days know how to win and disciple converts from the world. As a result, they often try to build their churches by seducing professing Christians to leave their own churches and come with them. May I say to you as strongly as possible – I abominate that kind of ministry! Sheep stealing preachers are like grave robbers in the 19th century. They dug up dead bodies that had recently been buried and sold them to medical schools to be dissected. The sheep stealing preacher is no better than a grave robber in my view!

As I close this message, may I say to you that no matter how bad the churches become in the last days, Jesus Christ Himself is ready to pardon your sin. He bled and died on the Cross to save your soul. He is now at the right hand of God praying for you. It is my prayer that you will seek Him and find Him. He said,

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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THE OUTLINE OF

LOST CHURCH MEMBERS AND SHEEP STEALING PREACHERS

(THE CHURCHES OF THE LAST DAYS – PART II)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 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 24:1-3).

(Luke 21:24; Matthew 24:24, 12, 13; Galatians 2:4)

I.   First, many church members in the last days are not born again,
II Timothy 3:1-5; Romans 16:17-18.

II.  Second, there are preachers in the last days who “steal sheep”
instead of winning souls, II Timothy 3:6-7, 13, Jeremiah 29:13.