Preached in Coragarry Free Presbyterian Church, Co. Monaghan, the Irish republic, by Rev Ivan Foster, Lord’s Day 6th August 2023.
“Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh,” James 5:8.
This morning I wish to turn your attention, if I may, to a subject that I have felt more and more burdened to deal with, either in the pulpit or with my pen, as I near the end of my being able to so minister.
I refer to that great Bible truth:
THE RETURN OF CHRIST TO THIS EARTH IN POWER AND GLORY.
If it seems to some that I am preoccupied with this subject, may I quote some verses from the Acts of the Apostles. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began,” Acts 3:19-21. These are the words of Peter. He says that all God’s ‘holy prophets’ spoke of the return of Christ at the time of the “restitution of all things”.
So far from being fixated with this wonderful subject, it would appear that I am in step with ‘all’ of God’s servants of old! The words of our text were written some 2000 years ago. This does not mean that believers back then were expecting the Lord any time soon. No, they would been instructed in what Paul taught the Thessalonians. “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3. There I s to be a great falling away before the return of Christ. The phrase ‘a falling away’ is a translation of the Greek word from which we get ‘apostasy’.
The Saviour’s return is drawing nearer and nearer. We are commanded to watch for the sign of that event amongst the affairs of men and events in the physical world. Were Christians and men generally to ever keep this wonderful event before them, the passage shows the impact for good it would have on the rich, the greedy and those suffering under persecution. As for Christians, our text indicates that ‘patience’ and ‘stability and stedfastness’ would be the result.
One of the signs is given us in Luke 21:26. “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” We are witnessing strange times of late and certainly men are alarmed and postulating all sorts of reasons for the lawlessness in society and the environmental events taking place world-wide. I wish to quickly set before you the most prominent signs Scripture says will indicate the near approach of the ‘Coming of the Lord’.
I. NOTE THE FIRST SIGN PAUL MENTIONS
1. That day shall not come, except there come a falling away first. There is a be a most notable ‘apostasy’ amongst professing Christians. Paul refers to this time again in 2 Timothy 3:1. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” A time spoken of in Revelation 12:12. “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.”
2. It reminds me of the devil’s ‘last fling’ in the gospels. Mark 9:17-26. He rages before before departing from the child. In like manner, the great apostasy, culminating in the appearance of the Antichrist, is the devil’s ‘last fling’ before the return of Christ.
3. Today, the devil is seeking to destroy the gospel witness. He has succeeded in many places. We have but to consider our own United Kingdom, and closer to home, our own province of Ulster. It was once the home of gospel blessing and that not long ago. Some of us can remember times of real Holy Ghost stirrings, some 50-60 years ago. However today, there is a great resemblance to the lad in Mark 9:17. “he was as one dead’! Deadness prevails throughout our land. Apostasy rules and reigns in the vast majority of churches where once the gospel was preached.
II. NOTE THE SIGN OF THE RISE OF SODOMY WORLD-WIDE
The Saviour said that there would be a repeat of that which preceded the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah, Luke 17:28-30.
That which God hated and judged is now rejoiced in, enforced upon society and those of the opinion of God ostracised and outlawed!
* Thousands turned out in Belfast just over a week ago to ‘celebrate; that which damned Sodom and Gomorrah.
* Parents brought their children and instilled in them an acceptance as normal such abnormality!
* Members of the police force in Northern Ireland marched amongst those who honoured and rejoiced in the greatest act of ‘lawlessness’ known to man!
Those whom God has given up “unto vile affections”, society has welcomed and embraced.
III. ANOTHER SIGN WE MUST OBSERVE
“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 24:14.
1. This is happening, though many Christians may not realise it.
I have a website on which I publish sermons and articles, all of which seek to proclaim Christ as the only Saviour of men.
I am able to see where those who visit the website come from.
I can truly say that in recent weeks I have noticed that scores of ‘hits’ have come from China. Of course, there are hundreds of gospel websites, much bigger than mine, and I understand that the same is the case with many of them.
But it is not only China. Other countries, in which the gospel has not entered to any great degree, have people from them seeking out the gospel through the internet.
This very recent innovation of man has made the gospel accessible to millions who before were cut off from it.
2. This is what the Saviour speaks of in Matthew 24:14. If that is so, then we must note His final words in the verse. “… and then shall the end come.”
Christian, please take heed. The words of James from 2000 years ago, are becoming ever more timely indeed.
“Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”