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God and the Triumph of Evangelism

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Category Articles
Date June 25, 2021

The Psalmist sang, ‘All the ends of the world shall re­member and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee’ (Psalm 22:27). Another Messianic psalm foretold, ‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth: They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him’ (Psalm 72:8-11). The stone which, in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, was cut out without hands and smote the image of iron, clay, brass, silver, and gold so that it resembled chaff of the summer threshing-floors ‘became a great mountain and filled the whole earth’ (Daniel 2:31-35). The day is coming when all things will be subdued unto the Christ (1 Corinthians 15:27, 28).

Triumph Assured

True it is beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Word of God teems with promises of coming triumph. But that is not all. Scripture describes the victory of God and Christ as present reality. That, in the conflict of the ages between God and Satan, God is ever in complete control hardly needs to be said. It is inherent in his being God. ‘God reigneth over the heathen; God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness’ (Psalm 47:8). ‘The Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods’ (Psalm 95:4). The mediatorial kingship of Christ, too, is even now glorious reality. The decisive battle between Christ and Satan was fought on Calvary. It was there that Satan bruised Christ’s heel but Christ bruised Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). Three times in the New Testament Satan is denominated ‘the prince of the world’, and each time it is said of him that as prince of the world he went down to defeat before the crucified Christ. With direct reference to his death on the cross Jesus said, ‘Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out’ (John 12:31). With the shadow of the cross rapidly closing in on him, he told his disciples, ‘Hereafter I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me’ (John 14:30). And, promising them the Holy Spirit to comfort them in their sorrow over his impending departure, he assured the disciples that the Spirit would reprove the world of judgment ‘because the prince of this world is judged’ (John 16:11). Whatever influence Satan has since exercised on the affairs of men — and it is admittedly great, so great that he is spoken of as ‘the god of this world’ who ‘hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them’ (2 Corinthians 4:4) — he has exercised with Christ’s permission and under his control. For Christ has indeed ‘all power in heaven and in earth’ (Matthew 28:18), and through his death he has destroyed him that had the power of death; that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).

Here the question may be raised whether Scripture teaches that the future will bring spiritual blessings to the Israelitish people. Regrettably, there is no unanimity on that question among Bible-believers. On the one hand, there are those who hold that, while individual Jews may well from time to time turn to Christ, all the spiritual blessings promised in Scripture to the Jewish people have been inherited by spiritual Israel, which is the church. On the other hand, there are those who teach that on one day, the day of Christ’s return, the Jewish nation in its entirety will experience a spiritual rebirth. Without wishing to be dogmatic, the writer would call attention to three state­ments of Scripture which he considers crucial as regards this problem. All are found in Romans 11. Paul puts the question, if the casting away of the Jews resulted in the reconciliation of the world, as it did, ‘what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?’ (v. 15). The apostle would seem to be envisioning a time when the Jewish people, who were rejected by God because they rejected his Son, will be received by God in mercy and will become instrumental in imparting a rich blessing to all of Christendom. The apostle continues, ‘I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits: that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in’ (v. 25). Are we not told here that spiritual blindness has affected Israel only in part, that this partial blindness is temporary, and that, when the full quota of the Gentiles has been gathered into the church, God’s ancient people will in large numbers receive the gospel? The conclusion is drawn, ‘And so all Israel shall be saved’ (v. 26). Although several expositors of note are convinced that the term ‘all Israel’ refers to spiritual Israel, consisting of both Jewish and Gentile believers, and other expositors are of the opinion that it designates the entire Jewish nation without any exception, there are good reasons for taking it to define the Jewish people as a whole, Jewry viewed collectively, although not distributively. F. L. Coder’s discussion of this point in Appendix E of his Commentary on Romans is enlightening, and so is a booklet by William Hendriksen on this theme.

Triumph through Tribulation

What does the future have in store for the church of Christ? On that matter there is considerable difference of opinion among students of the Word of God.

Premillenarians generally teach that, although the gospel will be spread over the globe and many will turn to Christ, yet, by and large, the near future is dark for the cause of Christ. The time is coming, and may well be at hand, when Satan will have his way as well as his day. There will be great tribulation on earth. Either before or after the tribulation the saints will be raptured to meet Christ in the air. Christ will return in triumph and establish his millennial reign with Jerusalem as its centre. During that period Satan will be bound. At its close he will be loosed and will gather the nations from the four quarters of the earth against the beloved city. However, the devil will go down to defeat and, together with his allies, will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.

Postmillenarians so called are of two kinds. Many of hem believe that the kingdom of God will come through such human efforts as social reform and that the com­pletion of that process will constitute the reign of Christ. Those who hold that view base it upon an evolutionary view of history rather than upon the Word of God. But there are also supernaturalistic postmillenarians. They think it the teaching of Scripture that the preaching of the gospel will prove so effective that eventually all nations will turn to Christ, Christianity will be gloriously triumphant, a golden age will ensue, and that, when this has come to pass, Christ will return as Lord of all.

At this point a warning would seem to be in order. The differences between premillennialism and super-naturalistic postmillennialism, material though they are, may not be stressed so as to obscure the significant fact that both teach the ultimate and complete triumph of the Christ.

There obtains among those who accept the Bible as the Word of God a third view of things to come. It is known s amillennialism and would seem to be more compre­hensively Scriptural than is either of the aforenamed views. That is to say, its proponents strive zealously, and not without success, to do justice to all the Scriptural data bearing on the subject in hand. In summary it is as follows. ‘The thousand years’ of Revelation 20 represent in symbolic language a long and complete period; namely, the period of history from Christ’s ascension into heaven until his second coming. Throughout that age Christ reigns and the saints in glory reign with him (v. 4). Satan is bound in the sense of not being permitted to lead the pagan nations against Christendom (vs. 2, 3). In other words, in that period, which is the present, the so-called Christian nations are predominant in power and in­fluence among the nations of the earth. During that period also takes place under the rule of Christ what may be termed the parallel development of the kingdom of light and that of darkness. This is unmistakably taught in Scripture. For example, Jesus’ parables of the mustard seed and the leaven (Matthew 13:31-33) teach the growth of Christ’s kingdom; and the growth of Satan’s kingdom is patently implicit in the Saviour’s plaintive query, ‘When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8). That twofold process is being exemplified in current events. The heathen nations are slowly being Christianized, while the Christian nations are reverting to paganism. Towards the end of ‘the thousand years’ Satan will be loosed for a little while. Those will be dark days for the church of God. Then will come to pass what is written in Revelation 13. Under the totalitarian rule of the Antichrist the human race will be consolidated politically, religiously, and economically. All men will follow him with the exception of those whose names are written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The saints will suffer persecution. Satan will go forth to deceive the non-­Christian nations in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, and gather them, numerous as the sand of the sea, to battle against the church and Christendom. The annihilation of Christ’s kingdom will appear to be inevitable. However, fire will come down from God out of heaven and consume his foes. And the devil, together with his associates, will be consigned to eternal torment in the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:7-10). Christ will return in ineffable glory and, having raised the dead, will sit in judgment on all men (Revelation 20:12,13).

Thus victory will be achieved through warfare, triumph through tribulation.

Triumph Consummated

Is one to conclude that, except for the conversion of a relatively small number of individuals, the proclamation of the evangel will prove of negligible effect and that, when the evangelization of the world by the church has resulted in failure, the Son of God will suddenly wrest victory from Satan by a cataclysmic display of power? Not by any manner of means.

The teaching of Scripture is plain. Towards the end of time Christ will indeed by a cataclysmic manifestation of power destroy his enemies. But it is also true that a countless throng from every kindred and tongue and people and nation will press through the twelve gates ­three on the east, three on the north, three on the south, and three on the west — of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, come down from God out of heaven (Revelation 21:2, 13). The dwellers in that city, Abraham’s spiritual seed, will be as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore and as the stars in the black-blue firmament of night (Genesis 22:17). Together they will constitute the new and true humanity and as such will inhabit the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1). And that multitude will have been saved through the gospel.

Throughout the centuries men have striven to reunite divided humanity. One might almost say that those strivings constitute the history of mankind. Among the methods employed to accomplish that end three stand out. Countless attempts have been made to unite the nations by the sword. Thus came into being the world empires of ancient history as well as certain empires and dominions of medieval and modern times. Such strivings could only fail, for when men are united by force they are not united at all. Alexander the Great sought to hold together his world-wide domain by means of a universal language. He made Greek the language of literature the world over. The Church of Rome employs the same device when it seeks to hold its sons and daughters together by the common use of the Latin tongue. Vola­puk and Esperanto are similar attempts of recent date to contribute to the unity of the race. It hardly needs to be said that the disease of disunity is too deep-seated to be healed by so feeble and superficial a remedy. Most recently men would heal humanity’s breaches by such governmental organizations as the League of Nations, the World Court, and the United Nations. Who knows? By the common grace of God such organizations may possibly alleviate some of the world’s woes. Conceivably they could head off or postpone a war or two. But certain it is that they, too, will fail miserably to establish universal peace.

Not one of the aforenamed devices of men, the last included, can bring about a united world. The reason is apparent. They deal only with symptoms, not with the cause, of humanity’ s disease. The cause is sin. Sin underlies disunity, strife, and war. And sin cannot be abolished by the sword, nor by oneness of language, nor yet by the assembled statesmen of the nations, men of good will though many of them are. Only God can conquer sin. His Son has done it. By his death on Calvary’s cross he vanquished sin. That is the theme of the gospel. The Christian evangel is nothing else than the presentation 0f God’s solution for the problem of sin. Only when it has been preached in the whole world and through it the nations have been made disciples of the Christ, will it come to pass that ‘they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more’ (Micah 4:3).

Christ’s triumph, then, will be the triumph of evangelism. That is implicit, to say the very least, in the concluding words of the Great Commission, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (Matthew 28:20). What else can this mean but that to the end of time he who has all power and authority on earth and in heaven will prosper his church in the proclamation of the evangel? Therefore it is written, ‘They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’ (Isaiah 11:9). Of the victors in the strife it is said that they overcame ‘by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony’ (Revelation 12:11). And he who, riding upon a white horse, leads the armies of heaven to consummate triumph is named ‘The Word of God’ (Revelation 19:13).

 

The above is the concluding chapter in Dr Kuiper’s work God-Centred Evangelism. The book begins with God as the author of evangelism and shows the relation of his Love, Election, Covenant and Commission to it. There are chapters on the Scope, Urgency, Motive, Aim, Agent, Approach, Means, Message, Method and Effectiveness of Evangelism. Dr Kuiper also deals with Zeal for Evangelism, Co-operation in Evangelism and Resistance to Evangelism.

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