What has become of our society? It has degenerated into one without any morals. There used to be a certain “code of ethics” that made life in the neighborhood safe and even happy. There were certain values that everyone seemed to agree upon for the good of society. Today that code of conduct is replaced with an anything-goes conduct that people actually think is better. The result has been an increase in violence and in acceptance of immorality and a complete loss of decent and safe living.
To the believer, this conduct of our society is a sign of Christ’s return. It is that of which Christ has forewarned us in the passage we consider today. He predicted it because He is controlling even this event to bring about His second coming. Matthew 24:12, 13 reads: “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.”
These words of Christ point out to us that in the last days there will be found lawlessness in society. This sign of lawlessness, as the other signs, will increase in intensity as the time of Christ’s arrival draws near. We will see more and more violence and immorality in society as time progresses.
The days of Noah, prior to the Flood, were perilous times. We read in Genesis 6:11-13, “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” It was because of the corruption and violence found in society at that time that God sent His judgment upon the earth by way of the Flood.
Now Jesus says to His church of today in Matthew 24:37, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Just as there was to be found immorality and violence in the society of Noah’s age, so also will society be filled with such corruption prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time.
It is this sign that Jesus refers to in Matthew 24:12 when He states, “Iniquity shall abound.” Literally, the term “iniquity” here means lawlessness. People in society at large, prior to the coming of Jesus, will deliberately ignore law. This does not mean that the nations that rule the world at the end of time will no longer enforce laws in order to maintain good order in society. There will still be a semblance of law and order in society. Anarchy will not prevail. What Jesus refers to here in this word “lawless” is that the laws of these nations will not conform themselves to the standard of God’s law. Not only will the people of society live immoral and violent lives, but the very laws of the land will be anti-God’s law, that is, the law of the Ten Commandments, the moral law, the law of God that abides for all times and all societies and all cultures. Society, Jesus says, will turn away from this law of God.
Now, to understand this, we need to understand the function of God’s law. The law of God is meant to govern all men—unregenerate man as well as those who are regenerated. God’s law is set by Him to govern the nations of this world and their citizens. It is this moral law of God that ought to be upheld by the laws of governments and nations. The whole duty of man, Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 12, is to fear God and keep His commandments. As the end of time approaches, however, ungodly, unbelieving man will neither live nor desire to live according to the laws of God. The apostle Paul forewarns the church in II Timothy 3:1-4, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Because of this, society will become violent and immoral, blatantly desecrating the laws of God.
Friends, those days are upon us. They will not improve, but they will grow worse. Men love themselves rather than God. Men serve themselves and their own lusts and pleasures. Men and women are blasphemers of God; they take God’s name in vain. A conversation can hardly take place today without people, outside the church and even in the church, using God’s name in an empty manner. Listen once to the swearing and cursing that goes on. There is no fear of God anymore.
Because there is a disrespect of God, there is also disrespect shown toward parents and others in authority. Young men and women rebel against parents as if it were the normal thing to do. Employees rebel against employers, striking for more money. Citizens of the country mock and deride those who rule over them. There is murder, rape, shootings on college campuses, suicide, drunken brawls, disrespect for the property of others. People have no self-control anymore. They live for pleasure. They need to party. They need to drink themselves half blind or to shoot drugs to find a high in life. A social gathering cannot be held without alcohol. Immorality abounds.
Sexual impurity outside the marriage bond; sexual unfaithfulness within the marriage bond; pornography at the click of a mouse button. Every kind of perversion is available sexually. All one needs to do is look for it. Sexual perversions that I am embarrassed even to mention, they are so atrocious. Greed runs high. Theft, fraud—our society mirrors the society of Noah’s day.
And as labor pains increase in intensity, so also will this lawlessness of our own society increase. It abounds. It is everywhere. We may become callous to it because it happens slowly over the course of a couple of generations, but it has reached epidemic stages. The woe of God upon the nation of Judah rests upon society today. Isaiah 5:20, 21: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” We see this same evil today. People call evil good and good evil. Every type of fornication is good. Abortion is good. Drunkenness is good. Swearing is acceptable. Divorce is good. Remarriage is good. Everything goes in our society today, and is passed off as good.
And what about what is really good? Well, it is evil spoken of. Abstain from sex before marriage? Ridiculous. Just be safe. Go to church on Sunday? Unheard of. Keep the day holy unto the Lord? Why? It is a great day for recreation or even work. Lawlessness abounds. God’s commandments are a thing of the past. Not only has the unbelieving world ignored them, but also many members of the church cannot even recite the commandments of God.
All this in society is a sign of Christ’s return. As time progresses, though the true church preaches against these sins, though the true church actively fights against such sins, the days become more and more perilous.
The end result of such lawlessness is that the love of many shall wax cold. Notice how Jesus says this: “Because iniquity shall abound in society, the love of many shall wax cold.” Lawlessness in society breeds a loss of love among many.
The question is, who are these many whose love grows cold? Well, where does love exist? In the church, among believers. The church is made up of those who love God. Believers love God and love the neighbor. The love they possess is a longing after God and His fellowship. Because of that love, the believer gives himself over to the worship of God. That is a love that comes with salvation. God in His love for His people sent His Son to die for them. In this way, the love of God is shed abroad in the hearts of those whom God saves. Love is that which characterizes the church of Jesus.
When Jesus states here in verse 12 that the love of many shall wax cold, He is referring to the church and her members. But what we must realize is that within the church of Christ in this world there are also unbelievers. These unbelievers claim to love God and Jesus Christ. But that love is not real. When their love is put to the test, then they prove that they do not really love God, though they say that they do. Influenced by the lawlessness in society in general, these unbelieving members of the church no longer care to walk in the ways of God. The love they had claimed to possess grows cold. They are taken in by the temptations that surround them in this world. They are drawn away from God and the church to follow after the unbelieving world. They are lured away by the ungodly and worldly living, the impurity in the world. As a result, they follow after the world in its ways.
In the church, Paul tells Timothy, men will become lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. They will have a form of godliness but will deny the power of it. They will continue to call themselves Christians. They will still insist that they love God and fear God. But they will deny the power of that salvation in their lives. They will proclaim their love for God but will live exactly like the unbelieving world. Their proclaimed love for God shall grow cold. A little, at first. But as time progresses, more and more. And this loss of their love for God will ultimately result in lawlessness. People who call themselves Christians will follow after the greed and the lusts of the unbeliever. They will take God’s name in vain. They will desecrate the Lord’s Day with their own desires and pleasures. They will rebel against mother and father. They will rebel against authority in school, in labor, in the church, and in government, and so on. Their love of God will be lost. And they will be no different than the unbelieving world—though having an outward show of godliness.
Are you watching this sign develop in society? We are not being taken in by the godless world around us, are we? For those who watch and battle strenuously against the temptations of this lawless world, there is great encouragement given us by Jesus in verse 13: “But he that shall endure,” Jesus says, “unto the end, the same shall be saved.” In spite of every opposition, those who are true believers will endure unto the end. That is encouraging for God’s saints in the earth.
Again, we must emphasize that we have in this a sign that is a labor pain. It is not a pleasant thing for those few believers to see many about them give in to the temptations and sins of this world. It is not pleasant to see loved ones and friends walk away from a love for the truth and a love for God into the lawlessness that encompasses society. That is painful, especially when they mock us and become angry with us for not following them in their sin. When we make a firm stand against their sin, we are shunned and looked upon with contempt.
Jesus puts it this way: “…he that shall endure.” Singular. He does not put it in the plural—we that shall endure. Every believer must take a close look at himself or herself. This is what Jesus requires of us. Will you be one that will endure to the end? Are you, or am I, being taken in by the world and its lusts or are we, in faith, enduring?
Not many in the last days will be able to endure. Jesus tells us in verse 22 of Matthew 24 that “for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” To endure means, literally, to remain under or to stand one’s ground. It is a term used in warfare. A soldier comes under enemy attack. Will that soldier remain faithful and stay while being attacked? Will he hold his ground and not flee? Will he remain faithful to the cause he represents without defecting and joining the enemy?
Jesus instructs us that the love of many shall grow cold. Those who were, at one time in their generations, soldiers who fought in the ranks of the church will lose their zeal. They will lose their enthusiasm for the cause of Jesus Christ and the truth. They will give in to the lie and to lawless living. There will be only a few who, as true soldiers of Jesus Christ, will dig in and fight the good fight of faith. They will make a stand against all the violence and immorality of society. They will see their friends, sometimes close friends whom they learned to love and trust, turn from God and turn from them.
The age of lawlessness is upon the world and society. Are we watching? All these things must come to pass. But if we watch and understand them, we will endure. We are called to steadfastness and faithfulness.
I do not mean to leave the impression that somehow we, in ourselves, have the strength to endure. I realize that some people are naturally better able than others to think for themselves rather than let friends do the thinking for them. I realize there are some who are bold by nature and are willing to stand up against those who join the wicked of this world. But it does not take this kind of a nature to endure. It takes faith. Every one of God’s chosen people is given the gift of faith. This is not something that we will find in ourselves. It is something that God Himself gives graciously to His elect people. Faith is something that God works in us, in the hearts of each one of His children. It is the blessings of salvation, something that Christ has earned for us on the cross.
And when God bestows on us the gift of faith, then we are grafted into Jesus Christ Himself. His life becomes our life. We know Him and become devoted to Him. We love that Savior and we love that God who has sent Him. That faith and love come to fruition in our lives.
As a result, the child of God flees to Christ, and Christ gives him strength to endure. Christ gives the believer the strength to carry on in his or her battle against sin. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Vigilance and endurance is found when we are constant in prayer and in God’s Word. There, in God’s Word, is the strength found to endure. And it is strength enough to endure to the end.
Many of God’s saints will die before the end of time. Jesus does not necessarily refer to the strength needed to endure to the end of time. We are simply called in our lives to endure until Christ comes in death for us individually. This is the end that Christ refers to in verse 13—the end of our earthly lives. Those who will endure to that end will be saved.
No, our endurance does not save us. Christ saves us. He does so in two ways. Those who endure are saved from the lawlessness of society. They are preserved. Christ will deliver us from the sore and oh-so-tempting allurements of this world of sin. He will preserve us in our endurance. But there is more to this salvation, too. In death, Christ will also save us from the destruction of a wicked society that lies under judgment. And He will give to us the heavenly salvation that awaits those who are faithful.
We will hear Christ say: “You have been faithful. Enter into the joy of My rest.” That is a promise. Christ promises that to all believers. He says to them: “You will be saved. Do not worry. I will preserve you. Just watch and endure.” What great encouragement that is to us when society itself stands against us. We will endure. And when Christ returns, we shall be saved.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we are thankful unto Thee that Thou hast given unto us a word of warning and that Thou hast granted unto us the Spirit of our risen Lord so that we might hear that warning and prepare ourselves for the return of Jesus Christ on the clouds of glory. We know our sins. We know the temptations of the world around us. Father, give us the strength in Christ to endure so that we do not walk according to the lawless ways of our wicked society. Continue to guide us. Forgive us where we fail. Give us the strength to carry on. We pray these things for Jesus’ sake alone, Amen.
Rev. Wilbur G. Bruinsma (Wife: Mary)
Ordained: October 1978
Pastorates: Faith, Jenison, MI - 1978; Missionary to Jamaica - 1984; First, Holland, MI - 1989; Kalamazoo, MI - 1996; Eastern Home Missionary - 2006; Pittsburgh PRC - 2016.Website: www.prcpittsburgh.org/
Address216 Thornberry Dr.
State or ProvincePennsylvania