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Strangers and Sojourners in the End Times (2)

Before we examine the various signs of the times, a few remarks about these signs are in order.

We all know what a sign is. It is something that points to something else. For example, road signs give us directions to a destination.

The signs of the end times are similar. They point to the second and final coming of the Lord, and they do so in three ways. We must keep these in mind to that we understand them correctly.

First, they are indicative. They tell us in a general way what must and will happen before Christ comes again. As time goes on, they become increasingly clear and obvious. The signs, as it were, become larger as the end of all things approaches. Today they are very large and clear.

Second, the signs are simultaneous. When we read of these signs in scripture, especially in Matthew 24, we must not understand them sequentially, so that one signs must take [lace before the next one happens. For example, it is not true that the gospel must be preached to all nations before the signs in creation begin. While it is certainly true that these signs vary in intensity as time goes on, they all work together at the same time to bring the coming of Christ.

Third, the signs are causative. This is perhaps their most important characteristic. We must not understand the signs in a merely formal sense as events that must simply take place before the Lord comes again. It is true that these signs must happen before the end, but this is not their meaning. Rather, these signs are necessary because they bring or cause the coming of Christ. How it this true? Because they destroy the kingdom of antichrist and bring the kingdom of Christ.

This why the signs of the end times are necessary. In both Matthew 24: 6 and Revelation 1:1, referring to the signs of the times, scripture says that they must come to pass. Herman Hoeksema explains this (Behold, He Cometh, 8):  Indent and reduce quotation

 

This must expresses the necessity of all the events of this present time from a two-fold aspect. First, it points us to the eternal and perfect and all-wise counsel of the Almighty as the ultimate reason and ground of this necessity. All things are the unfolding of the eternal good pleasure of the Most High. They are determined. All things are determined, large and small, good and evil. But they are determined not by cruel fate or blind force, but by the counsel of the all-wise Creator of all things. When we accept the word of God and believe that all things must come to pass, our hearts fine rest because they find rest in him. Second, this must points to the end, the telos, the final destination of all things: the perfected kingdom of heaven and its revelation in the day of Christ. This second aspect is inseparably connected with the first. Because all things have their ultimate reason and necessity in the counsel of God, they must come to pass in order to realize the divine end of all things: the tabernacle of God with men.   End indent

 

As strangers and sojourners, therefore, we must know what the signs are and be able to recognize them.

With all of this in mind, we turn to the sign of the preaching of the gospel.

The basic idea of this sign is the universal proclamation of the gospel of salvation through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone.

This sign is present throughout the New Testament, beginning with the great commission (Matt. 28:19–20). It is in obedience to this command that the gospel goes forth throughout history. This is the mandate given to the church, and the great and only calling of the church: preach the gospel.

The spread of the gospel is not difficult to trace. The gospel was first preached in Jerusalem and Judea, as we learn from the book of Acts. It soon spread to many places in the world, including Ethiopia through the ministry of Philip to the eunuch and to Samaria, the historical enemy of the Jews. But its primary direction was north and west, beginning at Antioch in Syria, which soon became the center of the New Testament church. From there it was a short jump to Asia Minor by means of the missionary journeys of Paul and his companions. It then progressed to Italy and Rome, the capital of the known world at that time. From there it spread to continental Europe and eventually to England. After the discovery of America, the colonists took the gospel with them as they spread throughout the continent.

Thus we can say that the general direction of the gospel was north and west from Jerusalem and Antioch. At the same time it passed by much of the world (with exceptions), including Africa, India, and much of Asia.

There is no doubt that the gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all nations before Christ comes again (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10; Rom. 11:25). Many scriptures teach that a multitude of the Gentiles will be included in the kingdom (Matt. 8:11; 13:31–32; Acts 15:14; Rom. 9:24–26).

This does not mean, however, that the command of the gospel to repent and believe must come to each and every individual in the nations in which the gospel is preached. Louis Berkhof (Systematic Theology, 697–98) explains:

It is impossible to maintain that the words of the Savior call for the preaching of the gospel to every individual of the different nations of the world. They do require, however, that these nations as nations shall be thoroughly evangelized, so that the gospel becomes a power in the life of the people, a sign that calls for decision. It must be preached to them for a testimony, so that it can be said that an opportunity was given them to choose for or against Christ and his kingdom. These words clearly imply that the great commission must be carried out in all the nations of the world, in order to make disciples of all nations, that is, from among the people of all those nations. They do not justify the expectation, however, that all the nations will as a whole accept the gospel, but only that it will find adherents in all the nations and will thus be instrumental in bringing in the fullness of the Gentiles. At the end of time it will be possible to say that all nations were made acquainted with the gospel, and the gospel will testify against the nations that did not accept it.

Berkhof’s last comment is especially important. According to God’s counsel, the gospel must go to the ends of the earth with a two-fold result: obedience to the command of the gospel to repent and believe, or a deliberate rejection of salvation through Christ alone.

So where are we regarding the progress of the gospel (the running of the while horse of Revelation 6:2)?

While we cannot know all the churches and organizations that are involved with bringing the gospel to historically heathen nations, especially those of Asia and India, it is certain that the gospel is going to these nations. We as churches are involved with the sending of the gospel to places it has never before gone.

Our sister church in Singapore, Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church, is the result of many years of mission work, and is today a strong Reformed church. Singapore in turn is currently involved in the teaching and spread of the Reformed faith in India. We as churches are busy in Myanmar (Burma), a nation that has for centuries been trapped in the vise of idolatry in its most blatant manifestation. The Protestant Reformed churches have also been very busy in the Philippines, where most of the population follows the false teachings and idolatry of the Roman Catholic Church.

As strangers and sojourners in the end times, what is our calling?

It is to be aware of the progress of the gospel, especially as it concerns the labors that we as churches put forth. In this way we are able to recognize opportunities and discern this sign of the times that brings the coming of Christ.

Our calling is also as much as possible to support the preaching of the gospel. In the grand scheme of things, the Protestant Reformed churches are small and from an earthly viewpoint don’t amount to much. Besides, if you check the Acts of Synod, you will discover that mission work is expensive. This makes our support even more important.

So, young people, find any way possible to help and support our mission work.

Christ is coming!