Reading Sermon (preached in Immanuel-Lacombe on December 31, 2008) Rev. Richard J. Smit
Read: I John 2
Text: I John 2:18,
“Little children, it is the last time: and as y have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”
There is much concern about time tonight at the end of a passing year. Tonight many pay close attention to their clocks. Some of them are synchronized by special radio signals to atomic clocks which are set up and monitored by government agencies. Especially tonight, Old Years night, time is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Many times the question may be asked, “What time is it?” Many will want to know how much closer midnight and the new year is approaching.
The Lord is also concerned that we know what time it is. This is true according to the example given by the children of Issachar in I Chronicles 12:32. We read: “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do....” These were the men from the tribe of Issachar who served in King David’s armies were greatly qualified. They understood many important things about fighting for King David and for his kingdom. Among all their qualifications, there is one importnt qualification which set them apart from the rest of the soldiers: they knew the times. They knew what time it was, and what that time required of them.
Do you know what time it is? In the Mountain Time Zone in North America it is right now a little after 8:00 o’clock in the evening, and so we are now less than four hours closer to the end of the old year and the beginning of the year of our Lord, 2008.
But, really now, that is not the answer the question behind our text needs. Our text is not asking about the time on our wrist watches, pocket watches, cell phones, or digital clocks that are syncrhonized to a radio signal from a government atomic clock. We are speaking about the time on God’s clock.
Do you know where the hands on that clock point?
According to that clock, do you know what time it is and what you then in light of it must do?
“What Time Is It?”
I. The Exact Time
II. The Abundant Evidence
III. Our Godly Response
I. The Exact Time
The Apostle John puts us now in front of God’s totally unique clock. Although our text uses the word “time” in the English translation, yet the word in the Greek is “hour.” This means that on God’s heavenly clock there are hours. These hours measure the progress of history.
God’s clock began to tick at Genesis 1:1 where we read, “In the beginning...” God’s clock has since that beginning moment measured the development of God’s history to the goal of the fulfilment of His Kingdom. God’s clock is set to strike very loudly when the clock hits 12 o’clock midnight. And, at that particular time, the day of all history will be finished and Christ will appear on the clouds of glory with His holy angels.
Because this is God’s clock, God is the timekeeper. God’s clock is determined by His counsel. As a result, the movement of the hands on God’s clock is far more precise than an atomic clock. God’s control over time and the history that occurs in time is sovereign and perfect. All that God has willed in His eternal purpose in Christ must and does come to pass in the various hours and minutes on God’s clock.
Now, what are the hours upon God’s clock?
In answering that question, keep in mind that God does not reckon the progress of history the way we might because God is not bound in His will and works by time as we are. To God a 1000 years are as one day. Although New Testament history has now gone on for over 2000 years, yet in the eyes of God that span of time is as one day.
With that in mind, we understand that as the hands on on God’s spiritual clock move on the face of His clock they rotate around only once. They mark off 12 hours on His clock.
What are the twelve hours on God’s clock? What major events mark the beginning and the ends of those hours?
The first hour marked God’s creation of the heavens & the earth in 6, 24 hour days and included the life of Adam and Eve in Paradise unto the Fall into sin.
The second hour began with the beautiful promise of Genesis 3:15 and continued until the time when Cain murdered Abel.
The third hour included the time from the birth of Seth to the time when Noah entered into ark and the Flood came.
The fourth hour included Noah’s departure from the ark until the construction of the tower of Babel.
The fifth hour included the call of Abarham from Ur of the Chaldees until the time when Israel was redeemed from the bondage of Egypt.
The sixth hour spanned the history from Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt through their wilderness wanderings to the plains of Moab on the east side of the Jordan River.
The seventh hour included the crossing of the Jordan River by Israel and their possession of the land of Canaan until the time of the Judges when every man man did that which was right in his own eyes.
The eight hour included the time from the kingdom of David and Solomon until the captivity of Judah into Babylon for 70 years.
The ninth hour includes the history of Judah’s return from captivity until the birth of John the Baptist.
The tenth hour includes the time from the birth of Christ until His death upon the cross and His burial.
The elventh hour includes the time from His Resurrection unto His Ascension into heaven.
The twelfth hour began when Christ ascended into heaven and pourd out His Spirit upon the Church on the day of the fulfilment of Penetcost.
Can there be any more hours upon God’s clock? There can be no more hours.
The Lord said in I Pet 4:7, “But the end of all things is at hand.” That verse teaches us that the goal of history is not a very long distance down the road of history. Rather, we stand tonight at the doorstep is the goal of history. The goal of history is the next major thing on God’s clock that must come to pass. It is the next major thing that must come through the doorway of history. Although there are important things that yet must come to pass; nevertheless, all these events in the final hour only serve the grand event to be revealed by the Lord very quickly when the clock of God strikes twelve.
Now, looking at God’s clock now, wat is the exact time?”
The Lord through the Apostle teaches us that it is “the last time.” Or, we can translate that this way: “It is the final hour.”
Major hours have past, especially the one fundmental to the whole clock’s sequence. Christ has come into our flesh, in our human nature. Our Mediator has take upon Himself the curse due to our sin and carried the weight of our guilt and nailed it to the cross in that hour of horror when He was forsaken by God.
That hour was the hour of our blessed redemption. That was the hour of our justification upon the legal basis of Christ’s obedience. That is the hour which made God’s clock for us, the clock of our salvation.
Now, Christ has arisen, ascended, and poured out His Spirit upon the church so that we are in the final hour.
When the final hour is finished, Christ shall appear bodily with His angels. He shall call the dead from the graves, and raise the righteous into our hvnly bodies for everlsating immortality. Then we shall stand before the Judge to be judged publicly. Then the wicked shall receive their eternal reward of their hour of everlasting horror in hell. Later, we shall witness Christ create the new heavens and earth, and we shall shout for joy at the wonder of the dawning of that everlasting day in the new heavens and earth. There in our etrnl home we shall enjoy that everlasting day in which the Sun of Righteousness shall shine forever.
But, where are we in this final hour?
That we cannot be at the beginning is certain.
We stand, beloved, before God’s clock as revealed in Scripture, and it shows that we are in the last few minutes of the final hour.
What time is it? The exact time at the sound of the faithful preaching of the Gospel is the final few minutes of the final hour.
II. The Abundant Evidence
One of the indications that we are in the last hour is what the Apostle mentions in the rest of vs 18: the antichrist and antichrists.
An antichrist is one who is not only opposed to Christ but in various ways also says that he is Christ. An antichrist proclaims that he has salvation and that he is Christ. The antichrist impersonates the Saviour and Mediator between God and man. Antichrists often boast that they can do miracles and in the place of Christ forgive people’s sin upon earth and establish for them peace on the basis of man’s righteousness. Antichrists even allow men to worship them.
The Apostle John declares that there are many antichrists in the world. There were self-proclaimed saviours that threatened the church already in the first century of the early New Testament church! Nevertheless, they could be easily detected because they denied the truth of Trinity, the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit and denied the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ with their heresies and false teachings.
When we look out into present history, we can see in the light of God’s truth that not only are there many antichrists out there, but also the development of the world and church world towards The Antichrist.
There are many antichrists. There are the antichrists today who claim many powers and rights which only belong to Christ. There are the antichrists of many, one-man cults. There are antichrists in the church world who suddnly declare that they have found a new Gospel which will bring peace, because the old Gospel and the old traditions are no longer effective and do not work anymore. Christ warned us not to be deceived by those who declare, “Lo, here is Christ!” Or, “Lo, there is Christ!” There are many antichrists and their false gospels in the world.
Yet, The Antichrist is on his way, too. Do you see the religions of the world continue to work together? Do you see church leaders embracing pagan religions and seek diaologue with them? Have you heard prominent world leaders minimizing the distinctions in religion and declaring that all religions eventually serve the same God? Do you see more and more appearing all the necessary ingredients and elements for the rise of the Antichrist?
Notice also that even lawlessness and the breakdowns of law and order in society, which becomes more frequent, only serve to prepare the way for the man who will proclaim that He is the Saviour for all the worlds problems and that he will establish real, lasting peace on earth among the nations of the earth.
From the viewpoint of the development of the Antichrist, we are in final minutes of the final hour!
There are other indications which show us that it is the final hour. The world’s cup of iniquity is filling rapidly. There are many signs of that which we can see. The world’s boldness in its sin continues to gain strength. The world’s boldness in declaring that its lie of evolution is the truth continues to strengthen. The world’s wickedness in the sins of adultery, fornication, and other sins of the Old Testament Sodom continue to define society more and more. There can hardly be more room in the world’s cup of iniquity. The open expression of man’s total depravity cannot descend much deeper. It seems that sin has not much further to descend in order to reach the point where the Antichrist declares himself to be God and demands that everyone worship him.
Besides that, there is evidence that we are in the final hour in the many disasters that take place in the creation, as Christ prophecied.
Developing apostasy in the church world is another piece of evidence that we are in the final hour. What our forefathers in the Reformation gained for us in their defense of the truth of Scripture, present leaders in the Reformed and Presbyterian church world are giving up in order to join hands with that church institute which accrdng to its doctrine and teachings is a false church. According to this sign of apostasy, it is clear that we cannot be at the beginning of the final hour, but at the very end of the final hour.
Finally, the preaching of the Gospel is a sign that we are not at the beginning of the final hour, but at the end. Where has the Gospel not been preached? One may argue that the purity of that Gospel has not always been what it should. Nevertheless, to one degree or another, where has the Gospel not been preached? Are there any more nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues in which the Gospel has not been preached according to Christ’s will and direction?
Jesus taught in Matthew 24:14 that the preaching of the Gospel is another indication and sign of the approach of the end of history. That means that the preaching of the Gospel is also a sign of what time it is. It is a clear sign that we are not at the beginning of the final hour on the day of Penetcost, but we are in the final few minutes of the purpose of Pentecost. The purpse of Pentecost was to begin the gathering of the elect households and their seed from every nation, peoples, tribe, and tongue, as many as God has ordained unto eternal life and so wills to call savingly by grace. As continues steadily through history the gathering by the Word and Spirit of Christ of believing househlds and their seed from the nations of the earth, the hands on God’s clock move ever closer to the strike of “12” and the completion of the final hour.
When the “12" is reached, the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ shall be filled with His elect children.
III. Our Godly Response
Our response ought not to be unbelieving.
Tonight the world responds to the reality that we are in the last minutes of the final hour with a willing ignorance of the reality. Tonight the world parties, like the world before the Flood. The world continues in its merry-making as though there is no judgment day. The world continues to praise the goodness of man and the great men of the past year. The world celebrates in the hypocrite’s hope that it shall live forever without the true and eternal God and without any necessity for a day of reckoning with the Judge. Let us not join with the world and stand in awe of the clocks of the world and its works, but let us stand in awe of God’s clock which moves quickly to “12.”
Nor, may we go to the other extreme of trying to calculate the exact time of the return of Christ on our clocks and calendars. Rather, we must watch the signs of Christ’s coming and know that He is coming thru them every day!
In response to what the Lord has shown us on His clock, we may not then expect more hours to occur. Some expect more hours or at least 1 more hour of an earthly kingdom of Christ in which all the nations and governments of the world will be included. Let us not be deceived, beloved. We are in the final hour. There are no more hours in history beyond the present and last hour.
Finally, our response must not be a terrifying fear tonight. Remember, beloved, this clock is the clock of your salvation. When the clock strikes “12,” that is the sound of our final redemption! That is true because He who has died for us shall deliver us from this dark night and exalt us into the everlasting heavenly light of His new creation.
Let us, the Father’s little children, heed the command of our Lord. His command includes that we do two things in response to our understanding of the time.
First, continue to watch the signs of the coming of Christ daily. Look for them by faith.
Secondly, pray that God grant you His grace to be faithful in this final hour. This is the final hour in which the persecution upon the faithful church shall be increased to levels which the church has not known before. Jesus commanded us, “Pray lest ye enter into temptation.” As the temptations of the world and Satan abound and tempt us to deny our Lord and to walk in ungodliness and in false doctrine, let us pray earnestly for the Lord’s preserving grace.
In that way of prayerful watching, trust in our heavenly Father as the remaining minutes on His clock tick away through the signs of the coming of Christ. Trust that the Father for Christ’s sake will continue to bless His remnant.
Rejoice that although this final hour will be the church’s most difficult hour, yet it will be at the same time the grace of God’s finest hour.
Rejoice that He who calls you His little children, will at the strike of “12" bring you into His eternal home. Trust that He will by His Spirit live within you with His light, protecting and preserving you, His blood-bought flock, through the coming generations, and that He will preserve His little remnant through the final few minutes of history until the clock strikes “12.”
What time is it, beloved?
It is the final hour and now even closer to its fulfilment at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN