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Hymn Sung Before the Sermon: “Higher Ground” (by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1926).


SHALL THE CORONAVIRUS STOP US?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
Pastor Emeritus

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, May 10, 2020


Please turn to Luke 21:8-11.

“And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” (Luke 21:8-11; p. 1105 Scofield).

Now turn to Matthew 24:4-8 (p. 1033).

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:4-8).

I want you to notice one word in these passages – “pestilences.” Then notice Matthew 24:8, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

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Now the word “pestilences” is important, it is loimoi (plural) in Greek. Unger’s Bible Commentary says that the word is “applied to…the plague.” Jesus predicted the pestilence of AIDS. The word also speaks of the coronavirus pandemic. Notice what Christ said about these pestilences, in verse 8, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” The Greek words mean “the beginning of labor pains” (MacArthur).

Speaking of our day, J. N. Darby said, “There would be a false church: There would be famines, pestilences, earthquakes.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines a pestilence as “any deadly infectious malady, used in the plural form in Luke 21:11.”

Now consider how people will “do church” after the Covid pestilence. A report on onenewsnow.com (April 24, 2020) was titled, “How will people ‘do church’ after the Covid crisis?” It says that many people “attend online services.” It says that “church life following the pandemic could look markedly different than it did before.” “42% say that giving is worse than before the pandemic.” “A degree of anxiety was found among church leaders who are fearful about what they will face once the lockdown is over.” “With a large proportion of churchgoers attending megachurches, there’s a degree of apprehension amongst church leaders across America.” “As behavior scientists, we believe the ‘in place of’ scenario is the more likely one – and that has many pastors concerned.” “The culture has taught people to expect things to be…available on demand.”

After spending the past 62 years in the ministry, I believe that these fears are well-grounded. I think that this could well be part of the end-time prophecy spoken of in II Thessalonians 2:3, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first” (Hē apostasia” – the apostasy). Dr. Merrill F. Unger said, “Partial falling away gives way to complete falling away – thorough-going abandonment of all faith by Christendom” (Biblical Demonology, p. 207). Can we be real Christians if we fail to obey this important verse of Scripture?

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25; p. 1300).

Dr. W. A. Criswell said of this verse, “The author of Hebrews asserts that the practice of assembling together ought to increase…as the day of Christ approaches…the crucial importance of the local church, and the necessity thrust upon every Christian to be faithful to the local community of the saints” (The Criswell Study Bible; note on Hebrews 10:25).

I believe these words take on an even greater meaning today, as we see the second coming of Christ approaching. New-evangelicals do not obey this verse. It will be even more rejected as we pass on toward the Great Tribulation. Satan knows he must separate true Christians from their local churches to weaken them even more, so at last they will submit to the Antichrist.

I am very sad that men like David Jeremiah do not emphasize regular attendance at their local church more. Dr. Jeremiah fails to tell his audiences how to prepare for the Great Tribulation.

Now turn to Matthew 24:6-8 (p. 1033).

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6, 7, 8).

“The end is not yet” (24:6).

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:7, 8).

“All these are the beginning of sorrows” (24:8).

Now I agree with Dr. J. Vernon McGee that 24:9 is the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Dr. A. W. Tozer said,

“Surely the days are evil and the times are waxing (growing) late, but the true Christian is not caught unawares. He has been forewarned of just such times as these and has been expecting them” (“Of God and Men,” p. 131).

Please stand as I read Matthew 24:7-14, p. 1033.

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 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 24:7-14).

Now I must tell you that I no longer believe in the pretribulation rapture. I have come to believe that the rapture comes before God’s wrath is poured out. Thus, in general, I believe in the pre-wrath Rapture of the church, like Marvin Rosenthal speaks of in his book The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church (Thomas Nelson Publications, 1990). Please don’t judge Rosenthal’s book until you read it first.

Marvin J. Rosenthal, like me, was a firm believer in the pre-Tribulation rapture of the church. Mr. Rosenthal teaches, in his book, that the rapture will not come until just before the Bowl Judgments of Revelation 16. Thus, I believe in the rapture, but I do not believe it will happen until just prior to the Bowl Judgments in Revelation 16. This is not a heresy, but is exactly what the Bible predicts. The great Chinese evangelist John Sung believed this. So did Dr. Timothy Lin, my mentor and pastor for 24 years. Dr. Christopher L. Cagan also believes this.

Is Rosenthal right? I think he is very close to being right. Before you reject Rosenthal, you should read and study the sixteenth chapter of his book, “The Coming and the End.”

My purpose in this sermon is to show that if we “Christians” cannot stand under a “pestilence” in the days before the Great Tribulation, how can they possibly stand during the Great Tribulation itself?

“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:21, 22; p. 1033).

These verses show the “Great Tribulation.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “We read in the Book of Revelation that during the Great Tribulation one third of the population of the earth shall be destroyed… during that period will be decimated. There was a time when this seemed to be an exaggeration. However, now that several nations of the world have atomic bombs, which could destroy the population of the world, it no longer appears to be exaggerated” (Thru the Bible; note on Matthew 24:22).

Jesus said, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)” (Matthew 24:15; p. 1033). Dr. McGee said, “Our Lord is undoubtedly referring to…an image of the Antichrist (see Daniel 12:11) which will be set up in the [rebuilt] Temple.”

“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:21, 22; p. 1033).

Dr. McGee said, “God will not let mankind commit suicide. That is the reason that this will be such a brief period” (McGee, ibid., note on Matthew 24:22). Notice also that the “elect” Christians will still be here, as Marvin J. Rosenthal says in his book, The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church.

Now please turn to II Thessalonians 2:3 (p. 1272).

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (II Thessalonians 2:3; p. 1272).

“Except the apostasy come first” (modern translation).

In these days of apostasy many preachers, like Kreighton and Waldrip, forget about the warning given in I Timothy 4:1, 2. Turn to I Timothy 4:1, 2 (p. 1276).

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (I Timothy 4:1,2).

Since they forget all about this prophecy, they pay attention to “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (demons); Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” That is why men like them split churches. Why? Because they blindly “give heed to doctrines of devils,” that’s why!

Here are several characteristics of “leaders” who split churches. These are given by Dr. Roy Branson, in his book, Church Split (pp. 29-31).

1. They are egotists. They are not willing to admit that anyone, even the pastor, might be wiser than they are.

2. They are selfish. They want their own way, no matter who or what suffers as a result.

3. They will not admit it when they are wrong. Another mark of an egotist.

4. They are hungry for personal recognition and glory.

5. They are insubordinate. No Bible teaching is clearer than the authority of the pastor and the admonition to obey and follow him. They say they are loyal to Christ. They say that the pastor is a cruel tyrant.

6. They are deceptive. They pretend to be concerned for the church. But they are really concerned with their own dominance and position.

7. They misuse words, “I love the pastor, but…” Then they attack the pastor.

8. They misquote the pastor, or apply wrong motives to his words.

9. They apply wrong motives to everything the pastor does.

10. They will not accept teaching. They “tune out” what the Bible says.

11. They champion the causes of others with complaints against the pastor. Thus, they recruit allies for the coming church split.

All of these characteristics appeared during the Kreighton/Waldrip split.

I could no longer stand up while I preached. This emboldened Kreighton. He is a rather timid man, but he was angry with me for not letting him become the main preacher. He said over and over that he was not upset. He even wrote telling Dr. Cagan that he didn’t need to preach to “be satisfied.” I did not let him preach because he did not have the gifts to do it. He said that he agreed with me. But he lied when he said that. Like many young men his age, he had a bad relationship with his own father. So, when I became sick, he took out the rebellion against his father on me. But he did this secretly. Instead of speaking with me, he began to have secret meetings with another preacher, John Waldrip. His meetings with Waldrip were unknown to me. Waldrip became his ally in these “secret” meetings.

Then Kreighton began to let others in the church know that he disagreed with me. But he never once told me about his disagreements. By the time I learned about Kreighton’s rebellion it was too late. He took out two thirds of our young people and started his own “church” with them. We were left with only about 35 loyal people.

By the time of the split, I was nearly 80 years old, and I was sick. Having been through things like this before, I knew that God would still be with me, so I did not worry much about it.

One of the deacons tried to get in a fist fight with me. Another deacon put pornographic pictures of himself and a woman on his website. Another leader said I was bigoted against the black people in our church. Another leader complained that I stopped the street preaching because of the attacks by LGBTQS people, who were not being helped anyway.

When all these things came out, I resigned as the pastor and Dr. Cagan was appointed as pastor. His own son, whom I was grooming to be the next pastor, left, although I considered him to be a close friend.

And then the coronavirus hit! So we moved out of the old church building and started meetings in houses, with me, as the Pastor Emeritus, giving a sermon each Sunday on TVs in the houses.

We have purchased a new church building in a suburb of Los Angeles. I will be mentoring a young Chinese man to take over when I can no longer preach.

I have been criticized for preaching on demons and church splits, but I have a huge audience of “third-world” preachers who read my sermons in 43 languages throughout the third world. Since church splits are now happening in the “third world” as well as in America, I have felt that these sermons will be a help to them as well as us. I feel that God wants me to speak on this subject as we start a new Chinese church.

I am very grateful that God called me to be a missionary to the Chinese people when I was 19 years old. Over 60 years later I am still doing what God called me to do so many years ago. I am still a missionary by the grace of God. Long ago I gave up the idea of being anything else! Here is a little poem that the great John Wesley quoted in his Journal,

A little pomp, a little sway,
A sunbeam in a winter’s day,
Is all the great and mighty have
Between the cradle and the grave!

I have started several churches “from scratch” in my 62 years of preaching. I am sure that God will help Dr. Cagan and me to start again.

It will not be easy, though. We are, by God’s grace, going to start this new church in the midst of the Antinomianism of new-evangelicalism in the last days. It will require you to be tough Fundamentalists. It will require you to be so tough that a little thing like the coronavirus will not stop you from being all that you can be for Jesus Christ, like Dr. Timothy Lin and Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. Remember, “we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; p. 1169).

I’m pressing on the upward way, New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand, By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound, My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.
Lord, lift me up and let me stand, By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

I want to live above the world, Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound, The song of saints on higher ground.
Lord, lift me up and let me stand, By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till Heaven I’ve found, “Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand, By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found; Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
(“Higher Ground” by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1926).