JN Darby: Lecture 5 on “The Hopes of the Church of God“
The Progress of Evil on the Earth and its Judgment – Summary by Sosthenes
Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee; then another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron (Daniel 2:38-40).
However evil does not come under judgment until the end of this age; that is, of the dispensation closed by the coming of Christ.
The knowledge of God will then fill the earth. How? By the judgment of God, which must begin at the house of God.
Three sorts of apostasy are brought together typified by Cain, Balaam and Korah. The beast will exalt himself above all that is called God. This must happen before the day of the Lord comes.
As evil increases, Christians see the proximity of judgment, piety increases and Christians withdraw from evil. They preach the gospel but there is little result.
Evil increases, especially in Christendom
Instead hoping that good will continue to progress, we must expect evil to do so. We are deluded if we think that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord before He exercises judgment. We are to expect evil, until it becomes so flagrant that it will be necessary for the Lord to judge it.
This is the character which this wickedness will take, as an external, secular power:
- Evil will go on increasing until the end.
- Satan will urge it on until the Lord destroys his power.
- The apostasy will take place in Christendom.
- The Antichrist will fall and be ruined.
Let us draw on the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt 13:24-30). Satan had put evil in the field where the good seed of the word had been sown. This will remain there and ripen. Christians will not enjoy the result of its removal, because the evil is to remain until the day of judgment: “Let both grow together until the harvest.” The harvest is at the end of the world – the end of this age; that is, of the dispensation closed by the coming of Christ.
Now, in God’s dealings, we have to do with grace and not with judgment. It is not for us to judge the world.
The tares are evil things such as heresy or the corruption of the truth. These are sown by the enemy after Jesus Christ had sown the good seed. But the Lord says it should remain until the harvest. The evil which Satan has produced by a corrupted religion will exist until the end. All our efforts ought to be directed – not to pluck out the tares but to gather in the children of God – to assemble together the co-heirs of Jesus Christ.
“The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy . . . .“( 1 Timothy 4:1.)
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come . . . .“( 2 Timothy 3:1-5).
We believe that the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth; but that is not the question. The question is, ‘How will this be accomplished?’ By the judgment of God “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).
In Timothy. “Men shall be lovers of their own selves,” etc. These are not pagans; they are Christians, nominal Christians. It is written about them, “Having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. … They shall wax worse and worse.” (2 Timothy 3:5,13
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” Compare these words with Acts 20:29-31: “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock; also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” 1 Peter 4:17. It is clear that this state of things began during the lifetime of the apostles.
In 1 John 2:11 we get three sorts of apostasy brought together upon which last the judgment will fall.
- Natural apostasy (the character of Cain – hatred and unrighteousness)
- Ecclesiastical apostasy (Balaam – teaching wrong things for a recompense)
- Open revolt (Korah, who set himself up against the rights of priesthood and of royalty, the royalty of Christ, in the types of Moses and Aaron.
The great whore has ruled the beast whose self-will and blaspheming character will be fully manifested in his last apostasy. Meanwhile, Christians desire the destruction of the whore’s influence . In 2 Thess. 2:3-12 it says, “That day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God.“
All this must happen before the day of the Lord comes.
Antichrist will unite in his person the characters of wickedness which have appeared from the beginning:
- Man has always wanted to have his own will
- He has exalted himself against God;
- He has put himself under the guidance of Satan.
There are three successive beasts:
- The empire of Babylon
- The empire of the Persians
- The empire of the Greeks, or of Alexander in particular
- The Roman Empire – a beast with marks altogether peculiar to itself.
Before this, the throne of God was on the earth at Jerusalem.
The force and power of Christ’s judgment is seen in Isaiah 11:4, “With the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked“
Nebuchadnezzar began by establishing a false religion by force. He made a statue that all the world was to worship, and he became lifted up in heart; so he was made to become as a beast for seven years.
The Rejection of Christ
The chief priests, who were, in God’s view, the representatives of religion upon earth, and Pontius Pilate, the representative of earthly power, joined in league together to reject and put to death the Son of God. Thus the fourth monarchy became guilty of rejecting the rights of the Messiah. The Jews are set aside; and then comes in the calling of the church for the heavenly places. If God permits the Jews to return to their country for a short time, it is that His Son might appear at the re-commencement of the fourth monarchy.
But as to that which concerns the church on earth, we have seen it marred by the seed of the wicked one, and the apostasy which resulted from it; (Dan. 7:9,11), “I beheld till the thrones were cast down and the Ancient of days did sit…. I beheld then, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld, even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning”. The Roman Empire has continued; it has even become Christian.
The Lord coming to Judge
Verses 13, 14: “I saw … one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
The kingdom is given to the Son of man, when the fourth beast is destroyed. The judgment and destruction of the fourth monarchy has not yet taken place, as we know from Daniel 2:34, 35: “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and day, and brake them to pieces…. and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”
It is after the total destruction of the statue that the stone begins to grow; which signifies that the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah, which is to fill the whole earth, will not begin to spread until after the fourth beast has been judged and destroyed.
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not” (Revelation 7:18): is the Roman Empire. As an empire, it exists no longer; but what follows? It will come out of the pit. It will have a really diabolical character; it will be a full expression of the power of Satan. This king will assume all the rights and privileges of Christ, arrogating them to himself: “I will ascend into heaven” – what Christ only has done; “I will exalt myself above the stars of God.” (Isaiah 14:13-14). Even the Jewish nation will receive him who comes in his own name
Little Result from Preaching the Gospel
The church’s task was to proclaim the glory of Christ everywhere. Many evangelical Christians therefore hope that, through better evangelical endeavour, the gospel will spread itself all over the world during this dispensation. But If you are entertaining hopes, you are deceived. Now we can only expect poor results.
God told Noah that He was going to destroy the world. Did this prevent his preaching to his fellow mortals? This animated him, in order that he might gain those who had ears to hear. And the result – eight, just his family.
Yet we preach the gospel – the only means of causing men to escape the righteous judgments which threaten them. God gives, at the same time, power to the testimony that would separate the good from that which is under judgment. I believe this to be God’s usual mode of procedure.
When we see evil increasing, and God drawing away believers from that evil, it may be taken as a sign that the judgment of God is nigh.
Signs of the Times
There are two signs of the proximity of judgment:
- Piety increases
- Christians withdraw from evil
In the word of God we see that the present economy will have an end. Evil will progress to a greater and greater height, until the wicked one is destroyed by the coming of Christ.
Let us conclude with the warning which the Saviour gives us: “Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” (Romans 11:22.)
Has the church kept itself in this goodness of God? Christendom has become completely corrupted; the dispensation of the Gentiles has been found unfaithful: Can it be restored? No: impossible. As the Jewish dispensation was cut off, the Christian dispensation will be cut off too. May God give us grace to continue steadfast in our hope, and to rest upon His faithfulness