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In the previous study we dealt with the items of equipment given to the Christian soldier as listed by Paul in Ephesians 6:10–17: The girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes or the boots of the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. We pointed out that in that list of military equipment there is only one weapon of attack, and that weapon is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. We saw that the Word of God is absolutely authoritative. And that the function of the ministers is not to edit, to explicate or even to comment on the Word of God, but to be a servant, to be a minister, to deliver the message as it is given.
We saw that God has laid down in His Word conditions for being a mouthpiece through which the Word of God will go forth with the power and the authority that God desires. That God explained to Jeremiah what He would require of him if he were to be a mouthpiece for His Word. And because Jeremiah met those conditions, the Word of God through Jeremiah was just as effective as if God Almighty had spoken it with His own voice. And the Word of God given through Jeremiah two thousand five hundred years ago has been shaping the destiny of kings and nations and rulers, especially in the Middle East and in other areas of the world. As a matter of fact, today if you look at the Middle East we can see chapters 30 through 33 of the prophet Jeremiah going into fulfillment before our eyes. This is the authority committed to a young man who felt that he was too young to be a prophet. But when God touched his mouth and put His words in the mouth of Jeremiah, then those words there in Jeremiah’s mouth were just as effective as if God had spoken them Himself.
We saw also that God has given us no authority either to add to or to take away from His Word. And if we do this, we blunt the edge of this spiritual sword. And furthermore, if we allow ourselves to be influenced by fear of men or human opinions or denominational pressures or social pressure, or financial pressure or any other kind of pressure that might cause us to compromise in our message, God will confound us. We will lose our authority and we will lose the respect of those to whom we minister. We saw that the apostles, and Paul amongst them, were servants of the Word; their business was to minister the Word that God gave. And that the Word so ministered was of tremendous effect.
Now I want to go on and consider the particular ministry of the Word of God which is appointed for the close of this age. In dealing with this theme of spiritual weapons, I feel the Lord has been leading me in each case to apply each weapon specifically to the situation that exists in the world today. Because we are not living in normal times. We’re living in a very special brief span of time immediately prior to the close of this present age. And it is unrealistic to live as though the situation were normal. Even in the secular world today leaders in every section of life recognize that the times that we live in are abnormal. The pressures are abnormal, the developments are abnormal, the speed with which everything is moving and changing is abnormal. And the church is a church asleep if it tries to carry on as normal in times that are abnormal. In fact, I believe this is one of the main criticisms that people would direct against the church as a whole; that the church is out of date. It’s irrelevant, it’s not moving with the times. But this need not be true because God has a message for His people at the close of this age. He has specific warnings, specific direction and a specific program for us to fulfill. And in the fulfillment of this program the Word of God has an absolutely essential place which cannot be taken by any of the other weapons that we have considered or shall be considering.
Now in considering the program of God for the close of this age, and particularly the place of the Word of God, I would like to turn to that great chapter which is the prophetic key to the close of the age. That is Matthew 24, that great prophetic discourse of Jesus on the Mount of Olives during the last week of His earthly ministry. I believe that this 24th chapter of Matthew, in relation to God’s purposes and program for the close of this age, is like the spine in the body. Ultimately everything else fits into and is jointed together with the spine. And so it is with all the prophecies that relate to the close of this age, all through Scripture. If we lay out the spine first, then we can see how the other parts fit in and find their right place. And so in order to understand what God is doing at the close of this age and our place in God’s program, it is essential that we have a grasp of the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 24.
Now I want to read to you the first fourteen verses of this chapter as they’re given in the King James Version.
“And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (KJV)
I believe this also has a message for us. For the devout religious Jew of that day, there was nothing more sacred and more impressive and more indicative of the glory of Israel and the presence of God in the midst of His people than this temple. And remember that the disciples of Jesus were devout religious Jews. They venerated and respected the temple, they stood in awe of it, it was the center of national life for them in every respect. And we see that in this kind of childish way they were trying to impress Jesus with the tremendous stones and the beauty and the adornments. And Jesus took their breath away because when they had shown Him everything He said, “You see all this? There’s not going to be left one stone upon another.” And they must have gasped. That must have been a terrible thought to them that a tremendous structure which was an absolutely essential part of the history of their people and their national life was going to be totally desolated. And without a doubt they began to talk amongst themselves and they wanted to know “When is this terrible thing going to happen? When is this temple going to be desolated in this way?” And so apparently they walked out from the temple eastward across the Valley of the Kidron, walked up the Mount of Olives and sat there somewhere on the summit of the Mount of Olives doubtless looking westward over the temple area. And we have to remember that this discourse was given by Jesus with His eyes and the eyes of His hearers looking out over the very scene that was to become desolate. And when He was seated there on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him with the questions that were troubling them as a result of what He had said about the desolation of the temple.
Now, why I consider this to be so significant is I believe most of us with a Christian background have grown up with some measure of respect and veneration for the institutional church. In a great measure, it has been the symbol of our faith, it’s been the thing that we were required to give respect to, it represented Christianity to us. It wasn’t always a representation that was accurate or worthy, but it was something that we really grew up to respect whether we were brought up as Anglicans or Lutherans or Presbyterians—this has become really a kind of symbol of Christianity.
You see, religious calendars—almost all of them somewhere or other have a picture of a steeple and a nice young married couple leading two children by the hand into Sunday school. This is the picture just as much as the temple was the picture of religion for the apostles. But my personal conviction is that just as surely as all that great building was going to be overthrown, so surely is institutional Christianity as we’ve known it, going to be overthrown. Just as completely. There will not be left one stone upon another. This is my personal conviction, I don’t say this because I want it to happen, I believe it’s going to happen whether we want it to happen or not. And I believe that it’s going to be just as shocking to some of us as this revelation about the temple was for the apostles of Jesus in their day. But you don’t need to worry because God’s program is not going to collapse with the collapse of the institutional church. It’s all right. The Bible says we have a kingdom that cannot be moved. The Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews that everything which can be shaken will be shaken. And the only thing which cannot be shaken will be the kingdom of God. Because that is the kingdom to which we belong. And let all stones and temples, and monuments and relics of the past be overthrown and shaken to their foundations, the kingdom of God cannot be overthrown. It cannot even be shaken. And I believe it’s just as necessary for us at this time that we get a vision of what God is doing and of the progress of the kingdom which cannot be shaken or overthrown as it was for the apostles in their day.
Even after Pentecost you find that it was the hardest thing for the apostles, as Jews, to disassociate themselves from the temple. As a matter of fact, even the apostle Paul, though he was called to be the apostle to the Gentiles, always made his way back to the temple when he came to Jerusalem. And eventually he was actually bodily thrown out of the temple and the doors were closed behind him. And I believe that this is really symbolic. Actually, Paul would never have parted with the temple if he hadn’t been thrown out of it. And because there’s a certain application to this in modern Christianity, a lot of ministers would never have left their church if they hadn’t been thrown out of it. And if anybody should be hearing this message who’s been thrown out, remember the apostle Paul was thrown out of the temple about nineteen centuries ago and it didn’t end his ministry. In fact, the greatest part of his testimony lay ahead. And he could have not fulfilled his testimony until this had happened in his life.
But I think we as professing Christians can sympathize with those Jewish believers of the first century and realize that the past with its antiquity has a tremendous hold on our minds and sometimes it takes a pretty shaking experience to shake us loose. And Jesus deliberately shook these apostles of His with His simple statement, there’s not going to be left one stone upon another. It was a breathtaking statement.
Now we’ll turn to the words that follow and we’ll see what is the program for the kingdom of God that cannot be shaken at the close of this age. And I’m going to read now from verse 3 through 14 in Matthew 24.
“And as he [Jesus] sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (KJV)
I want you to notice that the disciples actually asked Jesus three separate questions. I don’t think they realized they were separate questions, but in actual fact they were completely separate. The three questions are these: When shall these things be [which is the destruction of temple]? and What shall be the sign of thy coming? and Of the end of the age? Now they assumed that the destruction of the temple must coincide with the coming of the Lord and with the close of the age. Of course, they were totally wrong. Because the temple was destroyed in 70 AD and we have gone nineteen hundred years and the age has not come to its close. But those Jewish believers could not conceive that the temple could be destroyed without the whole age coming to a close. However, Jesus answered their questions. And in studying the words that follow, we have to realize that partly He’s answering the question “When shall be the destruction of the temple?” partly He’s answering the question “What shall be the sign of thy coming?” and partly He’s answering “And what shall be the end of the age?” And it doesn’t follow that any of those three exactly coincide in time.
Now we’ll read on in verse 4:
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. [The first thing He said is be on your guard against deception.] For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ [I am the Messiah, do you understand that?]; and shall deceive many.” (KJV)
A brother in the Lord who had studied Judaism told me that if you go to the Jewish encyclopedia you will find more than forty false messiahs listed in the history of the Jewish nation from that day until now. So those words of Jesus have been fulfilled in relation to Israel. There have been many false Messiahs. Bar Kochba was one, Moses of Crete was another. He, in the first century, led the Jews in Crete to believe that the Messiah was coming and they all waded out into the sea and were drowned just like some of the strange, fantastic things that happen in California and elsewhere when people believe that they know what day the Lord is returning. So the warning of Jesus was very practical.
“Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ [the Messiah]; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (KJV)
The fact that we have wars and rumors of wars is not in itself an indication that we’ve come to the end. This is very true because there have been wars and rumors of wars for nineteen centuries but the end hasn’t come.
Now in verse 7, I believe we come to what I would call the beginning of the end. And let me say also that I do not believe the end, as spoken of here, is one single event but it’s the final period. And if you want to turn back to the prophecies of Daniel in your mind, the end is probably the last week of the ninth chapter of Daniel. The seventieth week or maybe the last half of that week. I’m not seeking to be dogmatic in any way, but I do not believe the end is one single, final event or moment, but it’s the final period. Now I believe in verse 7 we get the first major indication that we’re approaching the end.
“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom ...” (KJV)
I understand this to mean that there will be great international wars. And of course, this century in which we live has been marked by what we call commonly the two great world wars. World War I and World War II, which were wars on a scale that the human race had never witnessed before.
“... there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes ...” (KJV)
Here are three more distinctive marks. A great increase in famine, or famines. A great increase in pestilences or diseases. And a great increase in earthquakes. Well, all these things are happening today. Earthquakes are increasing in frequency and intensity. About ten million people a year die of famine every year. People don’t realize this, but the world is already confronted with famine and all the food experts tell us that it is going to become far more acute in the next decade or two. And of course, the Bible is also very practical. Famine almost always leads to pestilence because when people’s resistance is broken down and epidemic diseases sweep in and carry off the weak survivors of the actual famine. Verse 8, Jesus says:
“All these [and I think that means the things listed in verse 7] are the beginning of sorrows.” (KJV)
Now the word sorrows is the standard Greek word for birth pangs that a woman has when a baby is being born. And I believe the word is used very appropriately and with full knowledge of its significance because this marks the birth pangs that will bring forth the new age. A new age is to be born out of the birth pangs of the old age. And I think it’s a medical fact that when a woman’s birth pangs begin, from then onwards, there’s no turning them back and they always become more frequent and more intense and closer together until the actual birth takes place. And this is the indication. Once these things start happening, they’re going to become more frequent, more intense and closer together until the birth of the new age, and nothing can be done to reverse this process. Once the birth really gets underway, you can’t turn it back.
Then in verse 9 we’re told of tremendous persecution that will take place of true Christians at the close of this age. And notice it’s then: looking forward to this period.
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” (KJV)
Now remember that over one-third of the earth thinks that this is already happening. Behind the Iron Curtain, behind the Bamboo Curtain, all these things are exactly happening just the way it says. And that’s not a small proportion of the earth, it’s about one-third the surface of the earth already sees these things happening. Verse 10:
“And then [the same time] shall many be offended [and when it says be offended, it means give up their faith. The persecution will be so intense that many people will give up], and shall betray one another...” (KJV)
This is the standard practice of Communist governments, to make believers betray each other and even make the children betray their parents. And this again is happening in a large proportion of the earth’s surface today.
“... and shall hate one another. [Verse 11:] Many false prophets shall rise and shall deceive many.” (KJV)
Now this is true, rather I would say, in what is called the “free world” than the Communist world. No one could estimate the number of false prophets currently operating in the United States alone. It must run into the thousands. And they are certainly deceiving hundreds of thousands of people. This is no exaggeration. Verse 12:
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (KJV)
The word iniquity means literally “lawlessness.” And one of the marks of the close of this age is a great increase in lawlessness. Again, in the United States and most other so-called free countries, one of the conspicuous trends is the increase in crime. That which we hear almost every day on television or in the newspapers. Abounding lawlessness. And this will cause the love of many to grow cold.
Now the word that’s used for love there is the word that’s only used of Christian love. So, many Christians are going to grow cold in their love because of the terrible climate of lawlessness and wickedness with which they will be surrounded. And just by way of personal exhortation, if you keep your finger in Matthew 24 for a moment, let me show you a warning concerning this situation and a word of exhortation that’s given in the epistle of Jude. I’m going to read from verse 14 through 21 in the epistle of Jude. And you will see that this section of this epistle deals again with the condition of the world and the spiritual climate at the close of this age. Jude is the last epistle before Revelation. And I’m going to start reading from the 14th verse:
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these [and these are the false prophets and false believers as you’ll see from the previous verses], saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints. [You’ll see that this epistle is putting us in the time of the coming of the Lord. And He’s coming, verse 15:] To execute judgment upon all, [He’s coming not now as the Savior, but as the Judge] to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (KJV)
If you look at that 15th verse there’s one word that’s absolutely like a refrain and I’m sure each one of you have picked it out. Which word is it that strikes against—ungodly, isn’t it? What is the key word to describe the secular world today? Ungodly. And that’s the atmosphere of the world at the close of this age. Then returning to these people who are false ministers and false Christians, it says in verse 16:
“These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great selling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.” (KJV)
These are people who have tremendous words to preach, but their aim is to get the wealthy, to put it in very simple modern English. Their preaching is aimed to impress and captivate the rich. And you will notice, and I don’t propose to give any names, there are a number of sects or cults today that specifically captivate the wealthy. And we have a church of one of them just around the corner from where I am speaking right now. They do not go for the poor; they only go for the wealthy. In fact, I think I will give names of those two groups. One is Unity and the other is Christian Science. Actually, they never do anything about the poor. All they do is captivate the wealthy. Verse 17:
“But beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.” (KJV)
Notice the word ungodly returning, the word lust? This is the whole climate of the close of this age. And notice another key phrase, mockers: People who deliberately mock at sacred things. They are one of the evidences of the approaching end of the age. You see, until about the last three decades of the last century, the Bible was in a sense or certain measure respected by everybody. Even the unbelievers respected the Bible. But in the last century there’s been a systematic, concentrated attempt to overthrow the authority of Scripture by mockery, by criticism. This is part of the total buildup for the close of the age.
“These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” (KJV)
I don’t want to dwell on this, but notice that the people that move off in a little group on their own and say “We are it; and if you want to be right you’ve got to join us,” think they’re spiritual, but the Bible says they’re sensual, the Greek says soulish. People that separate themselves from the body of Christ because they have a higher revelation are not spiritual, but soulish.
Now against this background of ungodliness and mockery, and lawlessness and sensuality, and false teaching, notice now the exhortation that follows to the true believer.
“But ye, Beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (KJV)
How are we to keep ourselves in the love of God? And how are we to keep ourselves in continual expectation of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? By praying in the Holy Spirit. This is the great means that’s given to keep us alive to God, and keep us from the contamination of the world and from being overcome by ungodliness and unbelief. It is by praying continually in the Spirit. The closer we come to this age, the more we’re going to need to cultivate the practice of praying in the Holy Spirit to keep ourselves in the love of God.
Now turning back to Matthew 24, and reading again verse 12 which is the verse that caused us to turn to Jude:
“And because iniquity [lawlessness or wickedness] shall abound, the love of many [many believers] shall wax [grow] cold. [Verse 13:] But he shall that endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (KJV)
Faith without endurance does not save. The faith that saves is a faith that will hold fast to the end.
Now in these verses that I have read from verse 4 through verse 13, Jesus has given us a general picture of the main trend, religious and political, that will mark the close of this age. But He has not answered one of the questions. “What shall be the sign of thy coming?” Not the signs, but the sign. The specific sign that the coming of the Lord is right at hand. But in verse 14 He specifically answers that question. And it’s so important to see that.
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; [and you notice the closing words?] and then shall the end come.” (KJV)
So what is the sign? It’s the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in all the world for a witness to all nations. Then shall the end come.
Now, as I said already, I do not believe the end means one final moment or event, but the final period. And I do not want to enter too deeply into interpretation of prophecy, but I think you’ll see that verse 14 is the last responsibility of the church as we know it in the world today. And verse 15 onwards is speaking specifically to Jews. And the center of the prophecy from then onwards is the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. I don’t want to go into it too far, but just notice the next verses.
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place [the very holy place that they were looking down on from the Mount of Olives, the temple area], (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains: [The message is not to the Gentiles all over the earth now. It’s a specific message to believers in Israel.] Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house. [And then in verse 20:] Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.” (KJV)
What would it matter if our flight were on the Sabbath day in the United States or Canada? It wouldn’t make the faintest difference, because we don’t observe the Sabbath. But it’s of vital significance in Israel because people don’t travel on the Sabbath. The buses don’t run. And any group of people migrating rapidly on the Sabbath would become extremely conspicuous. So it is clear that here we are dealing with a situation which is specifically Jewish and located in one specific place which is around about Jerusalem and in Judea. So I believe, myself, I have become convinced, I’m not trying to convince others, that verse 14 is the dividing line. After that there is “the end.” Probably the last week of Daniel’s seventieth week. All of which centers around Jerusalem and essentially in the temple.
So what is the end of what we might call this part of this dispensation? What marks the real end, the end period? The preaching of the gospel in all the world, to all nations, then shall the end come. What is the final responsibility of the church as we know it? To preach the gospel in all the world, to all the nations. You see, the precipitating of the close of this age rests with the church because the church is the body of Christ. And God will never bypass the body of Christ as long as it remains in the earth. The initiative is not with the political leaders, not with the military leaders, it’s not with the universities or the scientists, it’s with the believers in Christ. Who can preach the gospel but the church? And I venture to say God has been waiting nineteen centuries for the church to do this very thing. The age cannot close till the church has preached the gospel to all nations for a witness.
Then you might ask me, “Well, Brother Prince, doesn’t God know when the end of the age is going to come?” I say yes. God the Father does, not God the Son, nor the angels. But there is a day and an hour known only to the Father. “Well then,” you might say, “well Brother Prince, how can it be contingent upon the church preaching the gospel if God knows when the end will come?” My answer is very simple. God knows when the church will do what He’s been waiting for the church to do for nineteen centuries. And what I want to say, and this is the essence of my message, it has become a conviction of mine, that the present generation now growing up is going to be the generation that will do the job. Some people are very critical of the young people. I don’t believe that. I believe that we have a unique generation growing up today. I think everybody agrees to that. You read it in Time magazine or Life, they’re all speculating about this strange generation that’s emerging. Sometimes they’re not too charitable in their speculations. I’m sure the generation has a lot of problems. But I do believe it is a unique generation. And I believe that those in this generation who find Jesus Christ as Savior and baptizer in the Holy Spirit are going to get the job done. And I believe that this is also related to the tremendous increase in scientific knowledge and the tremendous technical advances that have been made, particularly in the field of communications.
To take one example, which is very relevant, that of tape recorders. I understand that the Japanese are now seriously planning to manufacture a cassette player, not a recorder, that will sell for one dollar. You understand, take the country that I’m very interested in, Kenya, or let’s say the whole of East Africa. If you could provide let’s say, ten thousand cassette recorders and tapes in Swahili, in five years, if you put those cassette recorders and tapes in the right hands, the whole of East Africa would have heard the message. There’s no question about that because I know the Africans well enough to know what they’ll do with it. It really is true. Give us the tools; we’ll do the job.
Now this is not a fantastic and improbable dream. It doesn’t require absolutely colossal sums of money. It can be done. As a matter of fact, I have a sort of feeling that this very message that I’m preaching will one day be translated into Swahili and will be part of the instrument to do the job. You see, in the United Nations they have professional interpreters that can interpret every speech given fifteen seconds or so after it’s made. So if we get a few professional interpreters, let me say, into the Swahili language, he can listen to this tape in English with earphones and translate it and have it recorded in Swahili. It’ll take just as long as it takes to play this tape. And then that can be made available en masse to the people whose language is Swahili. And incidentally, interesting enough, Swahili is the seventh most widely spoken language in the world. Here is a practical application of God’s program to this day. And that’s why I said at the beginning, and I’ll say it again at this point, that I believe this is a unique generation that we’re living in. And I believe I’ve seen evidence amongst the young people in the last few months that God has been dealing with them and will be dealing with them; that you cannot go on living as if everything were normal in a situation that’s abnormal. I believe they are a lot more realistic than some of their elders and so-called “betters.” I believe the truth is being got through to the young people, the young believers, that this is the time to do the job. And I don’t believe it’s unpractical or an exaggeration to suggest that given a tremendous move amongst the young people, a move of the Holy Spirit, such as is beginning to take place throughout the United States while I’m speaking. Get them baptized in the Holy Spirit, give them the simple basic instruction in the Word of God which they need, which isn’t tremendous, and give them the equipment; they’ll do the job. And I would say the job could be done in ten years from today. I’m not saying it will be but I’m saying it’s not unpractical that every nation should have heard this full gospel in the next ten years if everybody would do their part. And I believe that I’m in line with the will of God.
I feel I have the Spirit of God directing me in what I am thinking and am saying at this very moment. I leave it to anybody else to judge and discern the spirit, but I have a feeling that I’m actually outlining God’s program. And it’s very simple, it’s very scriptural, and it’s very practical. It can be done. If this generation does not do the job, they will never be able to stand before God and say, “God, you asked us to do something that couldn’t be done.” Because it can be done. And furthermore, I believe it’s going to be done.
Now let’s take for a moment, time to consider what is meant by “this gospel of the kingdom.” That’s a phrase I love. It doesn’t say “the gospel,” though that would be sufficient, but it’s very, very specific. This gospel of the kingdom. Not some human version, not the Presbyterian version or the Anglican version or the Assemblies of God version, but this total gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, to all nations. The King James says “for a witness.” It is possible to translate it “with evidence.” In other words, it’s not going to be just a word, but it’s going to be a word attested by supernatural demonstrations of the power of God. I believe in it. As far as I’m concerned, having been a missionary in two countries, if I did not believe that God would bear supernatural testimony to the truth of the gospel, I wouldn’t bother to go outside my home country to preach the gospel anywhere in the world. It’s a waste of time. The only gospel that’s going to get the job done is this gospel of the kingdom.
Now let’s look at some Scriptures in the New Testament that indicate what is this “gospel of the kingdom.” I’d like to turn, first of all, to Acts 17, and notice what the critics of the early preachers said. I think there’s something very revealing when you hear what the enemies have to say. And I have to tell you frankly that I hope my enemies will say the same about me one day. Because they couldn’t pay me a higher compliment than they paid to the early preachers. This is in the city of Thessalonica and Paul and Silas have arrived there preaching this gospel of the kingdom, and the opponents of the gospel were stirring up trouble trying to get them prohibited from preaching, gone to the authorities of the city and laid a complaint against them. And this is the complaint that they laid in Acts 17:6–7. They were looking for Paul and Silas in the house of Jason, but they didn’t find them.
“When they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” (KJV)
That’s a compliment. For a little handful of despised Jews to have turned the Roman world upside down was an achievement. Of course, I always say to people, “What they did really was put the world the right way up.” But people have been so used to living upside down that they felt upside down when they got put the right way up. Because that’s what the gospel does, it puts you the right way up for the first time in your life. Now notice the further accusation:
“Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar [the emperor], saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” (KJV)
Now that’s the troublesome message. That’s the message that turns the world upside down: There is another king. In the last resort, all authority in heaven and in earth have been given to a carpenter’s son that died on a Jewish gibbet in the city of Jerusalem. And everybody, king, preacher, priest or layman, is going to have to give account of himself to this king, Jesus. And He’s coming again to set up a kingdom.
Now this disturbed everybody. This turned the world upside down. And the amusing thing is it did right from the very moment the news was first presented.
Turn back to Matthew 2 and the account of the birth of Jesus. Matthew 2:1–3. Now I just want you to notice again the reaction, both of the political and of the religious leaders.
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” (KJV)
That was really upsetting. There was another king. Does that mean we’re going to lose our kingdom? Does that mean we’re going to lose our positions of authority? Does that mean that we’re accountable to somebody? You see, it’s still true even in professing Christianity, people get really scared when they feel they’re going to lose their kingdom.
Let’s look further at this gospel of the kingdom, which is what I want to emphasize. Turn for a moment if you can to the book of Ecclesiastes. And if you can’t, just listen. I say if you can’t, because some people don’t know where to find Ecclesiastes. That’s not a criticism, just a statement. Ecclesiastes 8:4:
“Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?” (KJV)
I like that. When the king speaks, who can ask him to give an account of himself and say, What do you mean by that? or What are you doing? And this gospel is the word of a king and where the word of a king is, there is power. And where the gospel of the kingdom is preached, it is attested by supernatural power. And it is not tailored to suit any denominational requirements or the opinions or traditions of men. No one can say to God when this gospel is presented, “What are you doing?” Because God, the Scripture says, giveth not account of any of his matters. Let’s look at the account of this gospel as presented in the gospel. And I want you to notice that in every Scripture that I’m going to read to you the emphasis is laid on the fact that it’s the gospel of the kingdom that is being preached. You’ll see a list of Scriptures in your outline. Matthew 4:23–24. Actually, this is the first presentation in the New Testament of the gospel of the kingdom. You’ll find the majority of Scriptures are taken from Matthew because Matthew is the gospel of the king. Mark is the gospel of the servant, Luke is the gospel of Jesus as a human being, and John is the gospel of Jesus as the Son of God. But the initial presentation is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies in the New Testament of the king who was to come. This is found in Matthew. Therefore, Matthew, above all other of the gospel writers, presents us the king and the gospel of the kingdom. And this passage in Matthew 4 is the first reference in Scripture to the gospel of the kingdom. And you find there’s a basic principle of Scripture that where a king is first referred to, you get the main central truth. Subsequent references build up, complete and add to, but the essence of it is contained in the first reference. And I think you’ll see that this is very clear. Matthew 4:23–24:
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom [and what else?], healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, [demons] and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy [were paralyzed]; and he healed them.” (KJV)
Notice it is complete healing, complete deliverance. It’s a total message that brings total health to the total man. This is the gospel of the kingdom. It has never changed. It’s precisely the same.
And then we read in Matthew 9:35:
“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” (KJV)
This is the gospel of the kingdom. And Matthew 10:7–8, these are the words with which He sent out the apostles on their first independent preaching assignment.
“And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [But don’t just preach, demonstrate it.] Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils [demons].” (KJV)
This is the gospel of the kingdom. It’s a gospel that’s attested by the demonstration of divine power and authority. It is the word of a king and it’s with power.
Matthew 12:28, another aspect of the presentation of the gospel of the kingdom, Jesus says:
“But if I cast out devils [demons] by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” (KJV)
In other words, the kingdom of God has to be demonstrated. It is not a kingdom without demonstration. It is not the word of a king unless it is with power. But when you see the power of the gospel and the name of Jesus bringing out into the open and driving out the evil spirits, then you see the open clash of the two kingdoms and you see the supremacy and the victory of the kingdom of God over the kingdom of Satan. It is a message of a kingdom that must be attested.
We’ll look on in Luke 9:1–2:
“Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, [demons] and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” (KJV)
The kingdom of God can never be separated from the healing of the sick and the casting out of evil spirits. And in the same chapter, the 11th verse:
“And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.” (KJV)
The kingdom of God always brings healing.
In Luke 10:8–9, you have the instructions given to the seventy who were sent out after the first twelve have been sent out. This is the instruction of what they were to preach and how they were to act. Luke 10:8– 9:
“And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” (KJV)
Every time the kingdom of God comes nigh, there must be a demonstration of power. It is not a kingdom without power.
And then we can also observe the preaching of Philip in Samaria as recorded in the eighth chapter of Acts. And you’ll see the same principle is true in the disciples as was true in Jesus Himself. In Acts 8:5–7 you have the account of the ministry of Philip, and then in verse 12 you have the comment. Acts 8:5–7:
“Then Philip went down unto the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them; and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.” (KJV)
Deliverance from evil spirits, healing of lameness and paralysis. Now this is described in verse 12:
“But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ ...” (KJV)
You cannot preach about the kingdom of God without the demonstration of supernatural powers. The kingdom of God must be attested. Where the word of a king is, there is power. No power, no word of a king. And I’ll tell you, what the world fears is a king. The world really isn’t scared of religion, but it is scared of supernatural power. And the moment the church begins to preach this kind of message in this kind of way, the reaction of both the civil and the religious authorities will be precisely the same. If we haven’t been put in prison, you know the reason? We haven’t been doing the devil enough damage. Just wait until we do the same amount of damage to the kingdom of Satan that Paul and Silas did, and believe me, our experiences will not be too different. But if Satan can bind us with spiritual chains or physical chains, he doesn’t need to put us in the literal chains. But he’ll put in the literal chains the people that can’t be bound with the spiritual or physical. At the moment the church is so bound with spiritual chains that the devil doesn’t have to put us in prison. Because he’s got us there already. But you see the liberated church, spiritually liberated, it will be physically imprisoned. Because that’s the devil’s last resort. It doesn’t work. The spiritual imprisonment of the Christians serves Satan, but physical imprisonment promotes the kingdom of God. But it’s his last desperate attempt to stop the preaching of the gospel.
Now let’s look at the commission that Jesus gave His disciples which is to continue unto the close of this age. And with this we’ll close this message. Matthew 28:19–20, but we must also look at verse 18 because here is the key.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power [all authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore [because of my authority you are to go and do what? Demonstrate it. Prove it.] and teach all nations [better translated, make disciples of all nations] baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (KJV)
Notice, discipleship brings you into a life of teaching where you have to be taught all that the first apostles were taught. The message is never to change, and it’s to continue to the end of the age. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” The very same thought that’s in Matthew 24:14, then shall the end of the age come. When? When the church has been to all nations and made disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
And in Mark 16, at the close of Mark’s gospel, we get a similar commission given there. Let’s look at the words of Jesus in Mark 16 beginning at verse 15:
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (KJV)
That’s very simple. There’s no problem in understanding it. The problem comes in obeying it.
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: [this is the gospel of the kingdom, it must have signs that follow.] In my name they shall cast out devils [demons. That’s the first sign]; they shall speak with new tongues [the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit]; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (KJV)
Somebody may say, “Do these signs still follow today?” I’ll tell you something, they follow those who go. They don’t follow those who sit still. Jesus never said the signs would follow people that sat in church and sang hymns. And if that’s your idea of Christianity, you don’t need any signs. People say to me, “Brother Prince, how can I receive the gifts of the Spirit?” “Well,” I say, “if all you want to do is sit in church and sing hymns you don’t need the gifts of the Spirit to do that. Why should you have them?” The signs are guaranteed to follow those who go, and they always do. Those who go and do what these people did.
Let’s look at the next two verses.
“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” (KJV)
He’s done His job. Now the responsibility rested with the disciples.
“And they went forth ...” (KJV)
Notice they went. They “go-ed,” in bad, but rather very vivid, English. They did the going.
“... they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them [when they went], and confirming the word with signs following.” (KJV)
See, if you don’t preach the Word, God has got nothing to confirm. If you don’t say that God heals the sick, it’s unlikely that He will. Occasionally He goes a little further than we preach. But basically we have to preach for God to confirm, and we have to go for the signs to follow. The program is simple. As I said, you might question, “Do these signs follow today?” Well about fifteen years ago I picked up a little book by a veteran pioneer missionary in the Belgian Congo as it then was, William Burton of Britain, a man who was signally of God and through whose ministry something like a thousand independent, self-governing churches were brought into being in certain areas of the Congo. And his book is called Signs Following. Now he was an engineer before he became a preacher, a very practical, down-to-earth, reliable man. And he takes this little book to specify in it in detail exactly how every one of these signs followed the preaching of this gospel in the Congo. The casting out of evil spirits, the healing of the sick, speaking with tongues, the taking up of snakes, and the drinking of deadly things without being poisoned. And as a matter of fact, the ability to drink deadly things without being poisoned in that area of Congo was almost essential for a gospel preacher. Because the witch doctors would habitually introduce poison into the food of the preachers or into their drinks. And there are several instances recorded of people who drank enough poison to kill several men, suffering no ill effects because they went and preached the Word, and God confirmed it with signs following. As I have said before, and I will say again, “You cannot follow a parked car.” And as long as the church remains parked on the church parking lot, there can be no signs following. But let the church begin to move and they’ll be astonished at the signs that follow. This is God’s program. It is the pattern for closing this age. We do not know when Jesus will come. There’s none of us that can say, “Well, another five years or another five months, or even another five days.” It isn’t our business to know, but we know one thing. That until He comes we have one supreme assignment. It’s to preach this gospel in the whole world, to all nations. And everything else is secondary to that.
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