Lessons for Troublesome Times
“And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? 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. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 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 21:1-24)
We are living in troublesome times. These are perilous days. These are difficult days for everyone. But they are particularly difficult for people who believe God and seek, in all things and above all things, to honor Him. I know that your minds are constantly full of questions, for which there seems to be no answer. Moral decadence, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and the pedophilia that it spawns are not just tolerated, but actively promoted in our public schools and by law. The brutal slaughter of unborn babies is as common as the removal of warts. By some perverse logic, the same people who want to protect rattle snakes from extinction and weep over the misuse of laboratory rats tell us that the murder of a baby is a matter of choice! Domestic violence is epidemic. War is an everyday activity. And the religion of the day is nothing short of men worshipping themselves. When I think about these things, three passages of Scripture come to my mind (Deuteronomy 31:17; Psalm 10:4; Galatians 6:7).
“Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?” (Deuteronomy 31:17)
“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” (Psalms 10:4)
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
How do we deal with these things? How are we to react to the things going on around us every day? Where are we to find help for our souls in these perilous times? In the first 24 verses of Luke 21 our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, gives us some needed lessons for troublesome times. Let’s look at them together.
Christ Sees All
Here is the first lesson. — Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, He with whom we have to do, sees all and knows all.
“And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4)
How keenly our Lord Jesus Christ observes the things that are done upon earth. We read that “He looked up and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.”
It would seem reasonable to me that our Lord’s mind would have been on other things. His betrayal, His unjust arrest, His mock trial, His crucifixion, His sufferings, and His death, were all at hand; and He knew it. The destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, and the casting away of Israel, the long period of this Gospel age, “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled,” and His glorious second advent were all spread before His mind like a great picture. Yet, He took notice of “the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.”
Truly, He sees all and knows all. — “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). — “The eyes of the Lord are in every place” (Proverbs 15:3). Nothing escapes His observation. Every act and thought of every person is written down in the book of His remembrance. The same eye that sees the council-chambers of the mighty observes all that goes on in your house and mine. He observed the pompous show of these rich men. And He observed the great sacrifice of the poor widow. He observed not only what they did, but also why.
Yes, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, He with whom we have to do, sees all and knows all! To religious hypocrites, that fact is terrifying, and ought to be. To the believer, it is blessedly comforting (John 21:17).
Marked for Destruction
Here is the second lesson. — Everything on this earth is marked for destruction.
“And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:5-6)
These words were a striking prophecy. How strange and startling they must have sounded to those who heard them. The temple at Jerusalem was utterly destroyed just a few years after these words were spoken. Soon, all earthly buildings and all earthly things, no matter how firm they appear to be, no matter how much they are prized and treasured by us, shall melt with a fervent heat and be destroyed. Hold nothing here with a firm hand. Value nothing on this earth more than you will value it when you die (2 Corinthians 4:17-5:9).
Our Lord was talking about the temple of God. It was a fabulous piece of architecture. To the Jews, the thought of it being destroyed was incomprehensible. They looked upon that building with idolatrous veneration. It was built according to the pattern given by God himself. David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and Nehemiah were the venerated names associated with that building. Every devout Jew in every corner of the world prayed toward the temple daily.
But the temple was to be destroyed by the hand of God. The temple at Jerusalem, though once the place of God’s manifest glory, though once the place where God met with men, though once the place where men and women drew near to and worshipped the triune God, had become an empty shell, a den of thieves, and a synagogue of Satan. That which was once the house of God had become the brothel of Babylon, and must be destroyed. So it shall be with every local church, every form of religion, and every person who abandons the Gospel of Christ and the worship of God. When Babylon falls, all who sleep in her bed shall fall with her. When the world is ablaze with Divine judgment, all false religion shall be burned as wood, hay, and stubble.
The true temple of God is not a building, or a system of religion, but the broken and contrite heart of poor sinners trusting his Son (John 4:23-24; Philippians 3:3).
“And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? 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.” (Luke 21:7-8)
Everyone wants to know when the end of the world will be, when Christ shall come again, and when the great Day of Judgment shall come. But our Lord Jesus completely passes over the questions asked in verse seven, because all such questions are totally unimportant. They are questions to which no answer can be found, because God has hidden the answer. Our Master refused to indulge their vain curiosity about prophecy. We would be wise to do the same.
Instead, he addressed Himself to a matter that ought to be of great concern to us all. Here is the third lesson. — Many false Christs are in the world, by whom multitudes are deceived. I am not interested in the many men who appeared in the years following our Lord’s crucifixion who claimed to be the Christ. They are of no danger to us today. But there are many false Christs being preached in the name of the true, just as there were in the days of the Apostles (2 Corinthians 11:3-4; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 John 4:1-3). Of these false Christs, we must beware.
I urge you to give earnest heed to the words of the Son of God.
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many...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. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24:4-5, 21-24)
The plain fact is there are many false Christs, many antichrists, by whom the souls of men are deceived and damned. I want to be as charitable, kind, and gracious as I can; but charity, kindness, and grace will not allow me to be silent while immortal souls are deceived and God’s glory is trampled beneath the feet of men. If you trust a false Christ, you cannot be saved any more than you could be saved by trusting a tadpole. We are called of God to trust, love, follow, and obey the true Christ and Him only. Salvation is promised to none but those who trust the true Christ. Therefore, we are warned in our text to “Take heed that no man deceive you.” We must take heed to the teachings of Holy Scripture, lest we be deceived by some false Christ.
We know about the Christ of the liberals. He was a social do-gooder. “Of course,” we are told, “he is not God.” The virgin birth, the incarnation, the resurrection are all things that must be understood allegorically. In fact, the Christ of the liberals is considered by many to be a man of very questionable moral character. Any who are deceived by liberal theology and the Christ of the liberals are willingly deceived. We are not deceived by the Christ of the liberals. Only a prating fool would pretend to be a Christian while teaching what liberals do concerning Christ. The Christ of the liberals is a false Christ. All who trust the Christ of the liberals are lost.
We also know about the Christ of the various cults. He is represented to us as a good man, a prophet, a teacher of morality, the first and greatest creation of God, or even a sort of secondary god. But the Christ of the cults is never represented as the true and eternal God. Their Christ receives his existence from another god, one who is greater than he is. This, of course, is not the Christ of the Bible. We are not deceived by him. The Christ of the cults is a false Christ. All who trust the Christ of the cults are lost.
We know about the Christ of Roman Catholicism. The papists profess that Jesus Christ is God, that he came into the world as a man, that he suffered the wrath of God as a substitute for sinners, that he died, was buried, rose again the third day, ascended back to heaven, and that he is coming again. But the Christ of Romanism is not a complete Savior. The Christ of Rome cannot save sinners without their own good works, the intercessions of priests, and the sacraments of the church. The Christ of Rome is not the Christ of the Bible. We are not deceived by him. Though many are damned by the darkness of Roman Catholic idolatry, that is not a danger and deception by which any who read these lines are likely to be deceived. The Christ of the papists, we know, is a false Christ. All who trust the Christ of Rome are lost.
However, there is a false Christ much more dangerous than the antichrists of the liberals, the cults, and the papists. There is a false Christ by whom the souls of men have been deceived for years, by whom millions are being deceived today. In fact, I am compelled to say, the vast majority of those who profess faith in Christ are followers of this false Christ who will ultimately lead them to eternal ruin. This Christ, this antichrist is such a dangerous and deceptive Christ, that our Lord tells us he would deceive the very elect were it not impossible for God’s elect to be deceived (Matthew 24:24). He must be identified. The Christ I speak of is the Christ of Arminian, freewill, works religion.
Few think that I am uncharitable when I denounce the false Christs of liberals, cults, and papists as antichrists, and warn men that following those false Christs will result in everlasting damnation. Yet, whenever I boldly assert that the Christ of Arminian, freewill, works religion is a false Christ and that all who trust him are lost, I am castigated as an evil man. Be that as it may, as a watchman upon the walls of Zion, I am responsible to warn you of the danger of this antichrist.
The Christ of Arminian, freewill, works religion is extremely dangerous, because in many ways he appears to be the true Christ. The freewillers and workmongers of this age tell us that Christ is the true God, in every way equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. They even assert that he saves by grace alone, without the works of man. They insist vehemently that good works play no part in their salvation. The devotees of this Christ will have nothing to do with the Christ of the liberals, the cults, or the papists. But “take heed that no man deceive you!” Do not be fooled. The Christ of Arminian, freewill, works religion is not the Christ of the Bible. He is a false Christ. All who trust this false Christ are lost, too.
Be sure you understand the issue. The issue is not what or how much does a person have to know to be saved. The issue is who. Who must I know? The answer to that question is plainly stated in John 17:3. We must know the true God and the true Christ. Let me make five comparisons of the false Christ of modern religion, the Christ of Arminian, freewill, works religion, with the Christ of the Bible. When you have considered these five comparisons in the light of Holy Scripture, I have no doubt that you will see the obvious distinctions between the false Christs and the true.
1. The Christ of modern, freewill, works religion loves everyone in the universe and wants to save them.
We are told that Christ loves all men alike, desires the salvation of all men alike, and is gracious to all men alike. That makes the love, will, and grace of Christ helpless and useless. But that language cannot be applied to the Christ of the Bible. The true Christ, the Christ of the Bible, the saving Christ loves His people, wills and prays for the salvation of His people, and is gracious to His people, the people unconditionally chosen unto salvation from eternity, whom He came to save (Psalms 5:5; 7:11; 11:5; Matthew 1:21; 11:27; John 10:16; John 17:9-10; Acts 13:48; Romans 9:21-24; Ephesians 1:3-6).
2. The Christ of modern, freewill, works religion tries to save everyone.
We are told that he offers salvation to every sinner and does everything he can to save them all; but that his offer is rejected and his work is frustrated by the will of those who refuse to come to him and be saved. The Christ of the Bible does not merely offer salvation. He performs it! Grace is not an offer. It is an operation! The Son of God effectually calls to Himself all His elect, His sheep, and sovereignly works salvation in them by the irresistible power and grace of His Holy Spirit. Not one of them will be lost. Is this, or is it not the teaching of Holy Scripture? (Psalms 65:4; 110:3; Isaiah 55:11; John 5:21; 6:37-40; 10:3, 25-30; 17:2; Philippians 2:13)
3. The false Christ of Arminianism cannot regenerate and save anyone who does not first choose to be saved by him.
We are told that man has a freewill, but that Christ’s will is bound by and must wait upon man’s will, because it would not be right for him to violate man’s will! The true, saving Christ does violate man’s imaginary freewill; and I am very thankful that he does. Had he not violated my freewill, I would be lost or in hell now! The same is true of you. He sovereignly regenerates and saves every chosen, redeemed sinner. His operations of grace are totally independent of the will and choice of the sinner. Apart from His work of grace in us, spiritually dead sinners never would or could believe on Him and come to Him in faith. Faith is not our contribution to the work of salvation. Our faith in Christ is the result, not the cause of God’s saving operations. “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (John 3:3-7; 6:44, 65; 15:16; Acts 11:18; Romans 2:4; 9:16; Ephesians 2:1-4, 8-10; Philippians 1:6, 29; Colossians 2:12; Hebrews 12:2).
4. The false Christ of modern, Arminian, freewill, works, man-centered religion died on the cross for everyone in the world, to make it possible for everyone in the world to be saved, but actually secured no one’s salvation by his death.
We are told that Christ by his death made it possible for all men to be redeemed, justified, and saved, but that his death has no efficacy and saving power for anyone until they believe on him. Thus, we are informed that the Son of God died in vain for all who perish in unbelief. Though he tried to save them, he failed! The Christ of God is not a frustrated failure! He died for God’s elect and effectually put away our sins by the sacrifice of Himself. Having satisfied the justice of God for us, He obtained eternal salvation for us. We were and are forever pardoned, justified, and sanctified by His blood (Isaiah 42:4; 53:8; Matthew 20:28; John 10:14-15, 26; Acts 20:28; Romans 5:9-10; Ephesians 5:25; Hebrews 9:12; 10:10-14; 1 Peter 3:18; Revelation 5:9-10).
5. The false Christ of Arminianism loses many who have been saved by him because they do not hang on, hold out, or persevere to the end.
Among the heretical Baptists of our day, some do grant that the sinner has what has come to be called “eternal security.” But it is not security based upon the will, work, and purpose of God in Christ. It is not security based upon the blood of Christ, or the operations of his Spirit. According to the freewiller, all these things are done for all people alike. So their doctrine of “eternal security” is a declaration of security based upon the choice and will of man, not the choice and will of God. The true Christ, the saving Christ, the Christ of the Bible preserves His chosen, redeemed, called ones by His almighty grace, so that they cannot fall away and perish at last. We are kept in life, grace, and faith by the immutability of His will, the power of His blood, the efficacy of His grace, the seal of His Spirit, and the perfection of His intercession (Malachi 3:6; John 5:24; 10:26-29; Romans 8:28-39; 1 Peter 1:2-5; Jude 24-25).
At first glance, the Christ of modern, Arminian, freewill, works religion may seem to closely resemble the true Christ, the Christ of Scripture; but he does not. The one is a false Christ, antichrist. The other is true, the Christ of God. One is weak and helpless, waiting upon and bowing to the will of man. The other is the sovereign Lord, Who wills what He pleases and does what He will! The one is supposed to be able to save with your cooperation. The other is able to save without any cooperation on your part. His salvation produces your cooperation!
Those who believe on and serve the false Christ of freewill, works religion do not believe on and serve the Christ of the Bible. They are deceived. They are lost. And they shall forever perish under the wrath of God, unless they come to know and trust the Christ of God, who saves His people from their sins by Himself. We must, as we fear God and care for the souls of men, have no fellowship with and give no credibility to Arminian, freewill, works religion (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Revelation 18:4). We must, in these days of darkness, deception, and delusion, proclaim the Christ of God in all His saving fullness, grace, and glory. He alone is able to save (Romans 1:15-17). Let us ever adore, praise, and extol the Lord Jesus Christ alone and completely as our great Savior (Isaiah 59:16)
By and By
Here is the fourth lesson. — The Lord Jesus will appear when it’s time, as he puts it in verse 9, “by and by.”
“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.” (Luke 21:9)
We are to watch and look for Him to come at any moment. Expect Him to appear, and to appear soon. Yet, we must never begin to think the time of the end is immediately at hand. We are to watch for Him with anxious, hopeful expectation, on the tiptoe of faith. Yet, we are to patiently wait for Him, serving Him with diligence and perseverance, with an eye to the generation before us and to the future generations that may be influenced by us.
Here is the fifth lesson. — Until Christ returns, troubles are sure and will only increase, troubles in the world and persecutions against the Gospel and all who worship and faithfully serve the Lord Jesus.
“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. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:10-12)
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Philippians 1:29)
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25)
Here is the sixth lesson. — Times of great trouble are times of great opportunity to confess Christ.
“But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” (Luke 21:12-15)
All these things, our Savior says, “shall turn to you for a testimony.” They supply us with great opportunity to confess Him before men, to proclaim to this wicked and perverse generation the glorious Gospel of God’s free, saving grace in Christ.
And we are not left to come up with something to say. He has in His Word given us the “mouth and wisdom” needed for the hour in which we live; and that “mouth and wisdom” is the Gospel. Let us settle it in our hearts that we will speak Christ’s Gospel in the day He has given us. The Gospel we preach, the grace of which we testify, our adversaries can neither “gainsay nor resist,” “for the Word of God is not bound.”
Here is the seventh lesson. — Though we may be betrayed, hated, persecuted, and sometimes even put to death, for Christ’s sake, God’s saints are always perfectly safe in His omnipotent hands, and shall never suffer any harm or injury of any kind.
“And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” (Luke 21:16-18)
It is written, “There shall no evil happen to the just.” — “It shall be well with the righteous.”
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
“In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 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 21:19-24)
Here is the eighth lesson in our text. — Our Lord Jesus teaches us, in the midst of troublesome times, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Child of God, enjoy yourself, and enjoy your God and Savior. Let nothing disturb or distress you. You possess that peace and joy in your souls which the world cannot take away (Romans5:3-5). And He tells us that we are to possess our souls in this patience of grace and faith and peace until all His elect have been gathered into His kingdom, “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Romans 11:25-27).
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
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