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THE GATHERING STORM

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, May 24, 2015

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


I remember exactly where I was when I turned on the radio in my car. It was the summer of 1965. The Vietnam War was in full force. For the first time I heard the song Mr. Griffith just sang.

Don't you understand what I'm tryin' to say?
Can't you feel the fears that I'm feelin' today?
If the button is pushed, there's no runnin' away.
There'll be no one to save with the world in a grave.
Take a look around you boy, it's bound to scare you boy.
And you tell me
Over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don't believe
We're on the eve of destruction;
No, no, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction.

I pulled over to the curb and burst into tears. Barry McGuire kept singing,

No, no, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction.

I had just been reading Billy Graham’s new book, World Aflame. Mr. Graham said,

      The whole world is filled with riots, demonstrations, threats, wars, and with a rebellion against authority that threatens civilization itself…
      The historian Will Durant said, “No great nation has ever been overcome until it has destroyed itself.” Republics, kingdoms, and empires all live their uncertain lives and die. In America we are now on the verge of seeing a democracy gone wild… Moral law is in danger of being abandoned even by the courts. To what extent can we expect immunity…when nations defy the laws of God?...
      As the world gets smaller our problems grow larger. Our freedoms disappear and our danger increases. Trouble and danger lie ahead. This present generation of young people can expect nothing but crisis, bloodshed, war, hate, greed, lust and struggle…
      Are we beyond saving? Are we beyond hope? Some of our greatest minds privately agree that we have already passed beyond the point of no return (Billy Graham, World Aflame, Doubleday and Company, 1965, pp. 15, 16).

He said that fifty years ago, in the summer of 1965. And no one laughed or mocked when Barry McGuire sang those words that same summer,

And you tell me
Over and over and over and over again my friend,
You don't believe
We're on the eve of destruction,
No, no, you don't believe
We're on the eve of destruction.

The words of Billy Graham and Barry McGuire apply even more, many times more, to the day in which we live this morning.

The twelve Disciples had those same thoughts. They came to Christ as He sat on the Mount of Olives, just outside of Jerusalem. They asked Him,

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

Christ told them that the world will have a definite end. He did not say it would go on forever. In that same chapter, Christ plainly said, “then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14). He told them that the world we know will end. And He told them about His Second Coming. He said, “They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).

Dr. Harold Lindsell was a founding faculty member of Fuller Theological Seminary as it once was. He was the esteemed editor of Christianity Today for ten years. He held a Ph.D. in history. He wrote a landmark book, The Battle for the Bible. When Dr. Lindsell spoke, people listened. In his book The Gathering Storm Dr. Lindsell made it clear. He said,

The signs of the times in this generation are markedly different from those [in the past]. They appear to me to be signs which the Bible prophesies will characterize the last days (Harold Lindsell, Ph.D., The Gathering Storm, Tyndale House Publishers, 1980, p. 7).

I am going to give three signs that the Bible says will characterize the last days.

I. First, the beginning of birth pains.

Christ spoke of “wars and rumours of wars” in Matthew 24:6. Dr. Henry M. Morris said, “The initial sign would be widespread war with many nations and kingdoms involved on each side, accompanied or followed by widespread famines, pestilences and earthquakes” (The Defender’s Study Bible; note on Matthew 24:7).

Then Christ said, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). The New International Version translates this, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Dr. Morris said, “Widespread war, famines, etc. The signs indicate that there will be a succession of similar ‘travail pains,’ in preparation for the birth of the new age to come. The first time such a complex of events ever occurred in history was during, and immediately after the years of World War I. There have been a number since, a fact that encourages [us] to believe that the Lord’s Second Coming is near” (The Defender’s Study Bible, ibid.).

The “birth pangs” that began with World War I have come again and again since then. World War II convulsed the nations of the world only 21 years after World War I. Then came the Korean War, then the Vietnam War. The “Cold War” between America and the Soviet Union lasted from the late 1940s until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Since then we have had one war after the other, especially in the Middle East. With the rise of Muslim terrorism, we now see ISIS taking over much of that area. Many observers say this could be the beginning of World War III.

With a weak and confused president in the White House, Iran will have nuclear weapons in the near future. They have publicly announced that they will use these nuclear weapons on Israel and the United States. Only God knows if they will do it!

II. Second, the days of Noah.

Another sign Christ gave was this,

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:36-39).

No one knows the day and the hour of Christ’s coming. But He said that the general period of time would be like the days of Noah.

It reminds me of the years just before World War II. Hitler was rearming Germany, building up a huge army and constructing hundreds of warplanes and tanks. No major political figure saw the danger except Winston Churchill. He was not the Prime Minister yet. They mocked him and laughed as he warned them about the rise of Hitler and Mussolini. He called his first book on World War II, “The Gathering Storm.” The theme of that book was this:

How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm.

That sounds like what is happening today. The Western world is allowing ISIS to take over the Middle East and prepare for war. Our leaders are living in a dream world, and our people are unprepared for judgment. In our time, we are seeing a return to the way it was in the days of Noah. We are living in the midst of the gathering storm!

The days of Noah lasted a long time. Man lived far longer before the Great Flood. Noah was already more than 500 years old when God said,

“My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3).

Christ said that the time of the end would be like the days of Noah. At the very least that would mean the end times would go on for a long period.

I am convinced that we can trace the roots of the problems facing our world back into the eighteenth century.  Johann Semler (1725-1791) in Germany began to criticize the Bible. By the end of the nineteenth century German higher criticism had caused preachers throughout the world to doubt the reliability of the Bible. By the late nineteenth century C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) felt compelled to leave the Baptist Union of Great Britain because the majority of pastors did not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and the Blood atonement of Christ. In a sermon given in this period Spurgeon spoke of “the boiling mudpots of heresy” that were ruining the churches (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 33, p. 374).

Also, in the late nineteenth century, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) wrote his books on evolution. The first editions of those books were sold out within a day or two. The public was ready to throw out the Bible and accept as fact the science fiction books Darwin wrote. No one seemed to care that Darwin had no scientific training. His only education was a bachelor’s degree in theology! But they snapped up his books and turned away from the Holy Scriptures. Thus the work of German Bible critics, starting with Semler, and the writings of Darwin, greatly undermined Christianity.

But the third man of that time was by far the worst. Beginning in about 1824 Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) started making a direct attack on Protestant conversion. He preached that all the Protestants before him were wrong. Remember that Finney wrote after the First Great Awakening and after nearly all of the Second Great Awakening. Yet Finney had the arrogance to say, “Very little of the gospel has come out upon the world for these hundreds of years, without being clogged and obscured by false theology” (page 92 of Today’s Apostasy: How Decisionism is Destroying Our Churches – click here to read it). For a thorough study of Finney’s false theology and methods see Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism by Iain H. Murray, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994.

Finney not only denied all theology before he wrote, he also changed real conversions into empty decisions. Thus, decisionism replaced conversions and filled our churches with millions of unsaved people.

I am convinced that those three men and their followers have been more responsible than any others for undermining Western civilization and bringing in “the days of Noah” that we live in today. The roots of today’s apostasy go back to Semler, Darwin, and Finney.

“But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37).

The people of Noah’s day had “a form of godliness” (II Timothy 3:5). But they were destroyed in the waters of the Great Flood.  They were unconverted, unsaved, lost for all eternity.

“And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:12, 13).

III. Third, the return of the Jewish people to their homeland.

It is clear in Matthew 24 that Jesus knew that the Jewish people would be back in Israel. In verse 15 Jesus spoke of the “abomination of desolation” spoken of in Daniel 7:8, 9:27, 11:31. This is a prediction of the rebuilt Temple.

Dr. Charles L. Feinberg (1909-1995) was a Messianic Jew. He was the Dean and professor of Old Testament and Semitics at Talbot Theological Seminary for many years. I heard him preach several times at the First Chinese Baptist Church when Dr. Timothy Lin was the pastor. Dr. Feinberg said, “The temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem...The Jews will be returned to their own land in unbelief. Our day is witnessing the preliminary stages of this stupendous process” (Charles L. Feinberg, Th.D., Ph.D., Prophecy in the Seventies, Moody Press, 1971, p. 181).

Even in the “perilous times” of the “last days,” the Jewish people have been drawn back to their God-given land by the Spirit of the Lord. I will speak more on this in tonight’s sermon.

We have seen the “birth pangs,” “the days of Noah,” and the return of the Jewish people to Israel. All of this has happened in the past 100 years. I am convinced that these are signs that we are living in the final years of the world as we know it. What is your response to these prophecies?

The lost world responds with fear, as in Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction.” “Take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy – We’re on the eve of destruction.” But that isn’t the way Christians look at these prophecies! The prophecies make our hearts glow with joy! Sing hymn number three again!

Dark was the night, sin warred against us;
   Heavy the load of sorrow we bore;
But now we see signs of His coming;
   Our hearts glow within us, joy’s cup runneth o’er!
He is coming again, He is coming again,
   The very same Jesus, rejected of men;
He is coming again, He is coming again,
   With power and great glory, He is coming again!
(“He Is Coming Again” by Mabel Johnston Camp, 1871-1937).

Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour? Have you trusted Him? Have you been washed clean of all your sin by His Blood? Have you trusted Jesus alone to save you from Judgment for your sins? We ask you to come to Jesus by faith. He will save you for all time, and throughout eternity! Please come back to church, and we will explain more about Jesus and the salvation He offers.

Heavenly Father, I pray that someone hearing this message, reading the manuscript, or watching the video, will be drawn to Jesus by Thy sovereign power! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Matthew 24:6-8, 15, 37-39.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Eve of Destruction (by P. F. Sloan, 1965; sung by Barry McGuire).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE GATHERING STORM

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

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

(Matthew 24:14, 30)

I.   First, the beginning of birth pains, Matthew 24:6, 8.

II.  Second, the days of Noah, Matthew 24:36-39; Genesis 6:3;
II Timothy 3:5; Genesis 6:12, 13.

III. Third, the return of the Jewish people to their homeland,
Matthew 24:15; cf. Daniel 7:8, 9:27, 11:31.