Sunday, July 4, 2021


Here are some of the most terrifying words of the Bible:

But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Is “terrifying” the best word to use to describe these verses? Perhaps “upsetting” would be a better, or “worrying.” But whatever adjective you wish to put in, these verses from the Apostle Paul do not give us a warm, fuzzy feeling.

These verses are especially concerning to us because as we look at each one of these descriptions of the last days, we can see that they describe exactly the days in which we are living today. It leads to the question that almost everyone in the Christian church today is asking, “Are these days in which we are living the last days?”

Of course, this is not the first time in history that people have asked this question. Nor is our own time in history unique in its similarity to what Paul describes in these verses. There have been great apostasies in the past, but there have also been great reformations. At the same time however, there are certain aspects to our present day that are unique, or at least that are indicative to an immanent intervention and punishment from God.

Will this intervention by God soon be coming to our nation, or perhaps even to the entire world?

The Last Days of Ancient Israel

The prophet Isaiah lived at a time that in many ways had similarities to our own day. He lived in a nation that was in decline and in a society that was divided. One could actually say that the national society in Isaiah’s day was divided into two distinct factions, the liberals and the conservatives.

This division was so deep that the nation of Israel was actually split into two separate kingdoms. The more liberal ten tribes were in the north. They retained the name “Israel” as their national identity. The two more conservative tribes of Judah and Benjamin were in the south, and were known by the more predominant of these two tribes, “Judah.”

Three hundred years before Isaiah’s time, King David had made a united Israel into what was then the most powerful nation in the region, and perhaps in the entire world. His son Solomon even expanded this power, but he had also begun to sow seeds of moral and national decline. That decline came quickly when his own son, Rehoboam ascended to the throne after Solomon’s death. The kingdom became divided and national decline followed quickly.

The prophet Isaiah came on the scene just as the two nations were being threatened by the more powerful nation of Assyria. Assyria was one of the most brutal nations that have even existed.

The Assyrian army was not content to defeat an enemy at war, but they sometimes tortured the conquered people by skinning some of them alive or impaling them on stakes. They would then engrave tablets of these acts to strike fear into any enemy who would resist them. One of the Assyrian Kings, Ashurnasirpal II, boasted on one of the tablets, “I flayed many and draped their skins over the walls.” And on another, “I burned their adolescent boys and girls…A pillar of heads I erected in front of the city.”

It is not hard to imagine why the declining nations of Israel and Judah were living in fear of this powerful enemy to the north. Facing the future with this type of uncertainty was not the way that the people of God were historically accustomed to living.

The Cost of Rebellion

In the past, when the people of God were united as one, they served their Lord God. And God blessed them. He protected them from outside threats and he prospered them. But despite the obvious blessings of God that they had received and despite the faithfulness of God, the people were turning against him. Isaiah wrote of their condition:

Listen, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the LORD has spoken:

“I have raised children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against Me.

The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s manger,

But Israel does not know; My people do not understand.”

Alas, O sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children of depravity!

They have forsaken the LORD; they have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him.

Why do you want more beatings? Why do you keep rebelling?

Your head has a massive wound, and your whole heart is afflicted.

From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness—

Only wounds and welts and festering sores neither cleansed nor bandaged nor soothed with oil.

(Isaiah 1:2-6 BSB)

The strength that the United Israel that existed under King David had been on the decline for years. Other nations were growing in their power and threatening them—specifically the Assyrian nation to the north. But the people of Israel, instead of looking to the Lord God for guidance and for support and security, sought solutions in politics in this now divided nation. Both Israel and Judah fought and squabbled with one another. They made alliances with various nations to gain the upper hand and to strengthen themselves.

An Abandoned Vineyard

They had forgotten who had made them great and where their security rested. This is illustrated imaginatively in the poem of the vineyard, of Isaiah chapter five:

I will sing for my beloved a song of his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.

He dug it up and cleared the stones and planted the finest vines.

He built a watchtower in the middle and dug out a winepress as well.

He waited for the vineyard to yield good grapes, but the fruit it produced was sour!

“And now, O dwellers of Jerusalem and men of Judah,

I exhort you to judge between Me and My vineyard.

What more could I have done for My vineyard than I already did for it?

Why, when I expected sweet grapes, did it bring forth sour fruit?

Now I will tell you what I am about to do to My vineyard:

I will take away its hedge, and it will be consumed;

I will tear down its wall, and it will be trampled.

I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and thorns and briers will grow up.

I will command the clouds that rain shall not fall on it.” (Isaiah 5:1-6 BSB)

That was the condition of the nations of Israel and Judah in those days. They were not yet destroyed, but they were quickly coming to that point. It was only the presence of a few remaining faithful ones that their destruction had not yet come.

Unless the LORD of Hosts had left us a few survivors or a remnant” Isaiah writes, “we would have become like Sodom, we would have resembled Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9).

Withholding Destruction

Do you remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah when God was about to destroy those cities? Before he did so, Abraham defended Sodom before God, saying, “Surely if there are ten righteous left in the city you will not destroy it.”

God agreed that he would not destroy it if ten remained, but alas, even in that great city not even ten righteous existed. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah burned with a fire that fell from the skies.

Isaiah knew that this destruction would also come to the nations of Israel and Judah:

For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because they spoke and acted against the LORD, defying His glorious presence.

The expression on their faces testifies against them, and like Sodom they flaunt their sin; they do not conceal it.

Woe to them, for they have brought disaster upon themselves. (Isaiah 3:8-9 BSB)

A Thankless Task

Isaiah was given a difficult task. He was sent to prophesy to a nation that not only was in decline, but which he was told would eventually be destroyed. They were left without any protection against invaders. Their hedge had been removed; their wall taken away. But they would reject the message from God spoken by Isaiah and would continue to turn away from God until they were destroyed.

God told Isaiah, “Go and tell this people, ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the hearts of this people calloused; deafen their ears and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Isaiah then asked: “How long, O Lord?”

God replied: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left unoccupied and the land is desolate and ravaged, until the LORD has driven men far away and the land is utterly forsaken.” (Isaiah 6:9-12 BSB)

Israel at that time was at the same place as was Sodom when Abraham intervened for it. It was already marked for destruction by God. The only reason that it had not already been destroyed was because of the presence of a few who yet remained faithful to the Lord.

Limits of Grace

The grace of God is longsuffering. God takes much abuse from people, but in his love, he continues to hold out his hand and send his messengers in an effort to bring people to repentance. Nevertheless, God is no fool, and he will not suffer at the stubborn wills of fools. There comes a time that when rebellion against God becomes excessive and when God’s grace will no longer be open to a nation. One of the indications that sin and rebellion has become excessive is when the people not only sin, but they do so pridefully. They take great pride in their rebellion against the teachings of God.

It is at that point that God’s grace ceases and when judgment comes.

It did to Sodom, and it will to America if we do not repent, and repent soon. We may think ourselves quite enlightened in our modern age with all our talk of tolerance for any and every type of lifestyle, but to this Isaiah writes, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21 BSB).

At what point does the grace of God upon a nation cease? Do we actually wish to find out in America?

A People in Rebellion

But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Like Isaiah’s story of the vineyard, Jesus also told a story relating to the raising of fruit:

A man had a fig tree that was planted in his vineyard. He went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.

So he said to the keeper of the vineyard, “Look, for the past three years I have come to search for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Therefore cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone again this year, until I dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine. But if not, you can cut it down.” (Luke 13:5-9 BSB)

We in America are a tree that is not bearing fruit. We are so caught up in our own perceived importance and our twisted ideas of social justice that we have forgotten that it has been the mercies of God that have given us the bounty that we have enjoyed for many generations. But we have ceased to be fruitful. God is digging in the ground to soften the soil. He is applying fertilizer to encourage growth.

This is our final opportunity. We cannot continue on the path that we are on and expect that the grace of God will continue. It is why the Apostle Paul writes that in the last days terrible times will come.

This is dreadful news, but these are not the most terrifying words that are written in the Bible. The most terrifying words are not spoken to nations, they are spoken to individuals. God addresses nations and their rulers about their sin, but in the end, it all comes down to us as people. It comes down to you and it comes down to me. It is how we respond to God as individuals that is the real issue.

Like a society who is walking in rebellion against God but so proud of their enlightened views, we as individuals can put on a façade of righteousness, but inwardly be dead and putrefying. We may be able to appear healthy to other people, but nothing is hidden from God. He sees us as we truly are.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight; everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13 BSB).

We may think that if we put on airs of piety and hold what we think are proper political views, we will be blessed in God’s eyes. But these are not the things that bring the blessings of God.

The Most Terrifying Words in the Bible

Jesus told yet another story about trees as they relate to our lives. He again specifically speaks of fruit trees. All fruit trees may look beautiful from a distance, but the true test of a tree is the nature of its fruit.

Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’

Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:17-23 BSB)

There are no words that have been spoken or that will ever be spoken that are more terrifying than those in that last day, if Jesus looks at you and says, “Depart from Me!”

“I never knew you. Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!”

Suddenly all of your self-pride and your self-righteousness fall to the ground and mean absolutely nothing. All of your enlightened views of society instantly vanish. Every word that you have ever spoken to justify your actions is exposed as the lie that it is.

Grace as reached its limit. God has looked you in the eye and has said to you, “Depart from Me!”

A Time to be Truthful

It is time for us in our Log Church to recognize the gravity of some of our own words and some of our own actions. Bitterness exists here. Jealousy exists here. Words of backbiting and malice have been spoken here. There has been unhealthy criticism of one another and just plain meanness. We hold on to grudges and we are unforgiving. I have seen it and so have you.

Unfair words of criticism have been spoken by some individuals that have caused some others not to return to church. And on the other side of the spectrum, these have chosen to take those words of criticism as an indication that this is the way that everyone in church feels. They choose to hold on to bitterness, and they stay away.

We may look at the mournful state of our nation, but I think it is more important if we look at the mournful state of our church. I am afraid that this past pandemic has brought out the worst in us. It has exposed in yet another fashion our unwillingness to try to understand each other’s opinions and concerns.

For a while we all wore masks because some said that they would not come if we did not. They did not come anyway. Now we are not requiring masks because some said that if we continued to do so, they would not come. They don’t come anyway.

The entire affair is getting a little wearisome to me. We need to learn to give each other space, and I am not talking about personal distancing. I am talking about giving each other room to be who they are. We need to learn to apologize, and we need to learn to give forgiveness to one another.

The Rock of Offense

Have you noticed that in our society it is no longer enough to simply disagree with someone else’s opinion? We now have to be “Offended” at someone’s opinion.

“I’m offended by what you think about that!”

“I’m offended that you can back that presidential candidate!”

“I’m offended by what it says on the hat that you’re wearing!”

When people choose to be offended instead of simply disagreeing, all opportunity for meaningful dialogue or a discussion disappear. Being offended means that we have taken someone’s opinion as an attack upon ourselves in a personal way, even though it may have nothing to do with us as a person.

Jesus came to us and spoke to us the words of salvation and peace. Some may have initially disagreed, but remained open to hear more. Many of these, as they heard more, came to understand the true meaning and message that Jesus brought to them.

But others were simply offended. These refused to have a discussion. These ended up crucifying Jesus. These thought that the answer was to say to Jesus, “I’m offended at your words. Depart from us!”

To these Jesus was, as Peter puts it “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8, from Isaiah’s own writings – Isaiah 8:14).

Isaiah’s Hopeful Words

Despite Isaiah’s difficult task and despite the gravity of the nature of the message that he was obligated to bring to the people of his day, his book remains one of the most encouraging and hopeful books in the Bible. It is hopeful because Isaiah writes not only about the situation of the Israel of his day, but he shows that judgment and destruction is not God’s final plan. In addition, he shows us that as long as we draw breath, the offer of redemption remains open.

Wash and cleanse yourselves. Remove your evil deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil!

Learn to do right; seek justice and correct the oppressor.

Defend the fatherless and plead the case of the widow.

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will become like wool.

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best of the land.” (Isaiah 1:16-19 BSB)

Getting Personal

On this July the 4th, it is time in our nation to wash and cleanse ourselves and remove our evil deeds, but even more crucial for us in our Log Church, it is time for us to remove the evil from our midst. We must discard the evil deeds and the evil thoughts. We must stop speaking evil words. We must learn to do right.

Peter also writes of the judgment of God. “It is time for judgment to begin,” he says. “And it begins with the family of God” (1 Peter 4:17).

We are about to participate in the Lord’s Supper. This time of communion is not a test as to whether or not we are following the CDC’s requirements on covid restrictions. It is a time of worship and it is a time of introspection. We are not to look at how others are acting. We are to look at how we, ourselves are acting. We are to judge ourselves.

Paul writes, “Now if we judged ourselves properly, we would not come under judgment. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:31-32).

Let us come together and join our hearts in communion and worship to the Lord. Judge yourself wisely. This is not social customs that we are talking about. It’s a serious business. It is an eternal business.

Do not let the words that you hear on that last day be, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Rather, let the words of Jesus to you be, “Well done you good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Master.”(Matthew 25:41, 21)

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