A. In light of the Day of the Lord being near (cf. Rom. 13:12; Phil. 4:5; Heb. 10:25; Jam. 5:8; 1 Pe. 4:7; 2 Pe. 3:3ff)patient enduring faithin God, his Messiah, and the restoration of all things is the foundation of the church’s mission in this age (cf. 1 Cor. 1:7; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 9:28; Jam. 5:8; 2 Pe. 3:12; Jude 1:21).
But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit;21keep yourselves in the love of God,waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christthat leads to eternal life. (ESVJude 1:20-21)
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he hadthe eternal gospelto proclaim to those who live on the earth– to every nation, tribe, language and people.7He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour ofhis judgment has come…“12This calls forpatient enduranceon the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. (NIVRevelation 14:6-12)
B. However, in context to the Day of the Lord the church is also called to faithfully witness to Jesus and the judgment to come. This witness is essentially amnestic in nature, representing the kindness and long-suffering of the Lord toward the wicked.
The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,47andrepentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48You are witnesses of these things. (NIVLuke 24:46-48)
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify(cf. Acts 1:8)that he is the one whom God appointed asjudge of the living and the dead.43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in himreceives forgiveness of sinsthrough his name. (NIVActs 10:42-43)
C. This amnestic witness is most perfectly expressed in martyrdom, which the church mustembrace wholeheartedlyat the end of the age as wickedness finds full expression. The Scriptures clearly declare that global martyrdom is theglorious destinyof the end-time church.
As I watched, this horn waswaging war against the saints and defeating them,22until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. (NIVDaniel 7:21-22)
He was given powerto make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.8All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast…(NIVRevelation 13:7-8)
I looked and there before me was agreat multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…13Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?”14I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who havecome out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (NIVRevelation 7:9-14)
1. The loss of focus and theology concerning martyrdom after the Constantinian Shift is in direct relation to assimilation of Platonism into the Christian worldview. As such the essential amnestic witness of the Church was lost, and likewise the essentialmeaningof martyrdom itself was lost.
2. Within a Platonic worldview, the mission of God, and therefore of the church, is either dominionistic (if sovereignty is emphasized) or escapist (if salvation is emphasized). Therefore martyrdom is either seen as: 1) afailure(cf. dominionism), since God/church has failed in establishing sovereignty over injustice, or 2) awaste(cf. escapism), since God/church has lost another worker unto saving souls.
3. Within a Biblical worldview, the mission of God, and therefore of the church, is amnestic which supplies inherent meaning to the event of martyrdom (if the intentions are actually motivated by the same loving intentions as God).
Beloved, I urge youas aliens and exilesto abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.12Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they maysee your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.13For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme…15For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish…18Slaves,accept the authority of your masterswith all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.19For it is a credit to you if,being aware of God, you endure pain whilesuffering unjustly.20If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it,you have God’s approval.21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you,leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. (NRSV1 Peter 2:11-21)
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…3If I give all I possess to the poor andsurrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. (NIV1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
A. The faithful witness to the judgment of the Day of the Lord and God’s long-suffering kindness in restraining from judgment is typified in the martyrdom of his own Son for the forgiveness of the sins of his enemies.
When they came to the place called the Skull, there theycrucified him, along with the criminals– one on his right, the other on his left.34Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (NIVLuke 23:33-34)
For Godso loved the world(cf. wicked)thathe gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIVJohn 3:14-16)
For while we were still helpless, at the right timeChrist died for the ungodly.7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.8But Goddemonstrates His own lovetoward us, in thatwhile we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (NASBRomans 5:6-8)
1. This restrain from judgment in light of the greatest injustice in history is the central aspect of the early apostolic witness to those who had martyred Jesus.
This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,you crucified and killedby the hands of lawless men…34For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand,35until I makeyour enemiesyour footstool.”36Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesuswhom you crucified. (ESVActs 2:23-36)
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whomyou delivered overand denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.14But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,15andyou killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses…17And now, brothers, I know thatyou acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers…19Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out. (ESVActs 3:13-19)
Rulers of the people and elders…10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead- by him this man is standing before you well.11This Jesus is the stone that wasrejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone(cf. Ps. 118:22). (ESVActs 4:8-11)
2. This restrain from vengeance is exemplified in the first apostolic martyrdom in the Book of Acts. Stephen’s final declaration reveals the deepest drive and agenda of his heart.
You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You arejust like your fathers…52Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And nowyou have betrayed and murdered him…57At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,58dragged him out of the city and began to stone him…59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed…“Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (NIVActs 7:51-60)
3. Those saints and prophets who were shamefully treated throughout the scriptures are honored as those with the greatest faith in the age to come and thus exemplifying the heart of the Lord in this age (cf. Heb. 11).
Remember those earlier days after you hadreceived the light(concerning the messianic age), when you stood your ground in a great contestin the face of suffering.33Sometimes you were publicly exposed toinsult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.34You sympathized with those in prison andjoyfully acceptedthe confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves hadbetter and lasting possessions(in the resurrection).35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.36You need to persevere so that when you havedone the will of God(as a witness), you will receive what he has promised(i.e. kingdom).37For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will comeand will not delay.38But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.11:1Now faith is beingsure of what we hope(cf. the kingdom)for and certain of what we do not see.2This is what the ancients were commended for…35Others weretortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.36Some facedjeers and flogging, while still others werechained and put in prison.37They werestoned; they weresawed in two; they wereput to deathby the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute,persecuted and mistreated–38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.39These were allcommended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.40God had planned something better for us so thatonly together with us would they be made perfect(in the resurrection).12:1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a greatcloud of witnesses(to God’s long-suffering), let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverancethe race marked out for us.2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith(in the resurrection, cf. 2:10), who for the joy set before himendured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.3Consider him whoendured such opposition from sinful men(out of love for them), so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point ofshedding your blood(in martyrdom). (NIVHebrews 10:32-12:4)
4. Paul thus considers it an honor to face martyrdom since his life goal was to witness to the long-suffering of God in the Cross.
And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.23I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me thatprison and hardships are facing me.24However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me– the task oftestifying to the gospel of God’s grace.25Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone aboutpreaching the kingdomwill ever see me again.26Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.27For I have not hesitated to proclaim to youthe whole will of God(cf. the sufferings of Christ before the glories of Christ, cf. Lk. 24:26; Acts 3:18; 17:3; 1 Pe. 1:11). (NIVActs 20:22-27)
5. Jesus himself exemplifies the witness of Antipas, and his martyrdom, as service unto the praise of God the Father’s long-suffering.
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come(i.e. Father), and from the seven spirits(“sevenfold Spirit”NLT)before his throne,5and from Jesus Christ, who isthe faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,6and has made us to be a kingdom and prieststo serve his God and Father. (NIVRevelation 1:4-6)
I know where you live– where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did notrenounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas,my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city. (NIVRevelation 2:13)
6. The capstone of the “two witnesses” of Revelation is their own embodiment of their testimony.
“I will give power tomy two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”…7Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss willattack them, and overpower and kill them…11But after the three and a half daysa breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. (NIVRevelation 11:3-11)
B. As the definitive prophetical witness of the end of this age, Matthew 24 clearly spells out the purpose of the Church in the face of the culmination of human rebellion.
1. As humanity rejects God in unison, represented by the “abomination that causes desolations” (v.15), the nations rage against those who represent God. As we have seen, this representation is essentially amnestic in nature and prophetical concerning the judgment to come.
Then you will be handed overto be persecuted and put to death, and you will behated by all nationsbecause of me. (NIVMatthew 24:9)
2. In light of the universal martyrdom of the Church, the church is called to remain faithful in prayer, faith and proclamation, patiently enduring to the end of this age.
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other…12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,13but he whostands firm to the endwill be saved. (NIVMt. 24:10-13)
3. As the Church remains faithful in her faith, she is called to likewise remain faithful in her testimony of the coming wrath and God’s present kindness and patience. This will result in a climactic global witness to all the nations,typified by a global martyrdomwhich will be God’s final testimony to the nations before the great and terrible Day of the Lord
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole worldas a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (NIVMt. 24:10-13)
C. It will be the “filling up in the flesh of the Church what is lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24) that will finalize the testimony of God to rebellious humanity, ushering in the Day of the Lord.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,22he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death(at the Cross), in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him(at the Day of the Lord),23if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting fromthe hope of the gospelthat you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.24NowI rejoice in my sufferings for your sake(as Christ did, cf. Heb. 12:2; Phil 2:8f), and in my flesh I amfilling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictionsfor the sake of his body, that is, the church(i.e. long-suffering witness that many might be saved, cf. 2 Pe. 3:9),25of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of Godfully known. (ESVColossians 1:21-25)
We arehard pressedon every side, but not crushed;perplexed, but not in despair;9persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed.10We alwayscarry around in our body the death of Jesus(emulating Jesus’suffering), so that thelife of Jesusmay also be revealed in our body(in the resurrection).11For we who are alive are always beinggiven over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body…14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the deadwill also raise us with Jesusand present us with you in his presence(at the Day of the Lord).15All this is for your benefit(cf. Col. 1:24), so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.16Therefore we do not lose heart. Thoughoutwardly we are wasting away(in suffering and persecution), yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day(in faith and hope in the resurrection).17For ourlight and momentary troubles(emulating Jesus)are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all(in the resurrection). (NIV2 Corinthians 4:8-17)
1. The church is called to embrace suffering and martyrdom wholeheartedly as an expression of service to the Great Martyr, Jesus, who died for the salvation of sinners (cf. Mt. 20:28; Lk. 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:15; 1 Jn. 3:8).
Iendure everythingfor the sake of the elect,that they too may obtain the salvationthat is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.11Here is a trustworthy saying:If we diedwith him(in this age), we will also live with him(in the resurrection);12if we endure(in this age), we will also reign with him(in the kingdom). If we disown him(in this age), he will also disown us(in the judgment);13if we are faithless(in this age), he will remain faithful(in the judgment), for he cannot disown himself. (NIV2 Timothy 2:10-13)
Now if we are children, then we are heirs– heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,if indeed we share in his sufferingsin order that we may also share in his glory.18I consider thatour present sufferingsare not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (NIVRomans 8:17-18)
Whatever happens,conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel28without being frightened in any way bythose who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved– and that by God.29Forit has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,30since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. (NIVPhilippians 1:27-30)
I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and thefellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (NASBPhilippians 3:8-11)
2. To pledge allegiance to God, who is essentially long-suffering, we must also pledge allegiance to the consequences of that long-suffering, which has always been the suffering and martyrdom of the prophets.
Blessed are you when peopleinsult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; forin the same way they persecuted the prophetswho were before you. (NASBMatthew 5:11-12)
For you, brothers,became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews,15whokilled the Lord Jesus and the prophetsand also drove us out. (NIV1 Thessalonians 2:14-15)
3. The key to “overcoming the world” is the embracing of martyrdom at the heart level. Without a fundamental commitment to representing God, even unto death, the world will still have sway over the church with the threat of death.
Now have come the salvation and the power andthe kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night,has been hurled down(as a sign of the imminent judgment, cf. Is. 34:5-8; Hag. 2:6-7).11Theyovercame himby the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony(cf. the suffering of the Messiah before the judgment of the Messiah); they did not love their lives so muchas to shrink from death. (NIVRevelation 12:10-11)
4. The great “falling away” (Mt. 24:10) of the church will ultimately be because of a lack of embracing suffering and martyrdom in this age.
He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead,17so that no one could buy or sellunless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. (NIVRevelation 13:16-17)
“If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand,10he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury…He will betormented with burning sulfurin the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb…“12This calls forpatient enduranceon the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments andremain faithfulto Jesus. (NIVRevelation 14:9-12)
D. The testimony of God to humanity, typified in the completion of the martyrdom of the saints, is the primarymeasuring rodof redemptive history. In other words, the completion of redemptive history happens in context to the completion of the testimony of God, which is typified through the completion of martyrdom.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had beenslain because of the word of Godand the testimony they had maintained.10They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood(cf. Day of the Lord)?”11Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer,until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (NIVRevelation 6:9-11)
1. Like the intercession of the martyred saints under the altar (Rev. 6:10), so also the intercessions of the global martyrdom release the temporal judgments, which in turn causes the nations to rage and persecute the saints, which releases greater temporal judgments, etc. This escalating the testimony crescendos to the end of redemptive history at the Day of the Lord, when God brings the amnestic mandate to an end.
After this I looked and there before me wasa great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…10And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God(cf. Rev. 12:10; 19:1), who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”…14he(one of the elders)said, “These are they who havecome out of the great tribulation…“8:1When he opened the seventh seal, there wassilence in heavenfor about half an hour…3Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer,with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. 4The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.5Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, andhurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. (NIVRevelation 7:9-8:5)
2. The dominant theme of the Book of Revelation, besides the temporal judgments of God, is the culmination of wickedness upon the earthexpressed in the persecution of the saints—cf. the persecution of the churches (2:9, 13; 3:9); the slain souls under the altar (6:9); the great multitude of martyrs from every nation (7:14), the two witnesses (11:7), the “destroying those that destroy the earth” at the seventh trumpet (11:18), those that “love not their lives unto death” (12:11), the dragon makes war upon those that hold to the testimony of Jesus (12:17), the beast is given power “to make war upon the saints and to conquer them” (13:7), the patient endurance of the saints in light of the mark of the beast (14:12), the harvesting of the earth’s righteous (14:16), those beside the sea of glass “victorious over the beast” (15:2), the cause of the bowls of wrath (16:6), the drunkenness of Harlot Babylon on the blood of the saints (17:6), the judgment of Harlot Babylon for the way she treated the saints (18:20), the rejoicing of the multitude in heaven for the avenging of the blood of the saints (19:2), and the vindication of the martyrs in the Kingdom (20:4).
I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea,those who had been victorious over the beastand his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God3and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds,Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways,King of the ages.4Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy.All nations will come and worship before you…” (NIVRevelation 15:2-4)
Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged;6for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”7And I heard the altar respond: “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” (NIVRevelation 16:5-7)
And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”6And I saw the woman,drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. (ESVRevelation 17:5-6)
“Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets!God has judged her for the way she treated you.”21Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again…24In her was foundthe blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” (NIVRevelation 18:20-24)
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah!Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,2for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (NIVRevelation 19:1-2)
I saw the souls ofthose who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesusand because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life andreigned with Christ a thousand years. (NIVRevelation 20:4)
A. A false witness will also arise at the end of the age, which will pervert the witness of the gospel. This false witness will ultimately be designed to avoid the embracing of suffering and martyrdom.
Then you will be handed overto be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,11andmany false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (NIVMatthew 24:9-11)
B. The False Witness will be founded uponfalse ideologiesthat undermine love unto death. Moreover, it will be a history of small denials of the Cross that will culminate in the final denial of Jesus in context to the Antichrist.
1. This False Witness is exemplified in Peter’s confession and subsequent denial. Peter’s “stumbling block”, like many in Israel at that time (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Pe. 2:8; Rom. 9:32; Gal. 5:11), was the rejection of suffering before glory (cf. Lk. 24:26; Acts 3:18; 17:3; 1 Pe. 1:11; Heb. 2:10ff).
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah…“21From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples thathe must go to Jerusalem and suffer many thingsat the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and thathe must be killedand on the third day be raised to life.22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”23Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are astumbling blockto me; you do not have in mind the things of God, butthe things of men.”24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he mustdeny himselfand take up his cross andfollow me. (NIVMatthew 16:16-24)
2. Paul warns believers to avoid those whose lifestyles deny the reality of the Cross.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.2For people will belovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit,lovers of pleasurerather than lovers of God,5havingthe appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (ESV2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Brothers, join inimitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears,walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, withminds set on earthly things. (ESVPhilippians 3:17-19)
C. Ultimately, the False Witness will abandon the Cross and everything it communicates. It will seek “riches, honor and long-life” for self, rather than embracing suffering and martyrdom as faithful witnesses of God’s long-suffering. The measure of the Church is its production of loving martyrs.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, andin view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season;correct, rebuke and encourage– with great patience and careful instruction.3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, tosuit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.4They will turn their ears away from the truth andturn aside to myths.5But you, keep your head in all situations,endure hardship, do the work of anevangelist(concerning“his appearing and his kingdom”), discharge all the duties of your ministry.6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering…8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness…and not only to me, but also toall who have longed for his appearing.9Do your best to come to me quickly,10for Demas,because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. (NIV2 Timothy 4:1-10)
D. This is the ultimate danger of ideologies that equate the Kingdom of God with the Church. If the Kingdom is now in the Church, then there is no real impetus for denial of the flesh, seeking a greater inheritance in the age to come. If the Kingdom is now, then the inheritance (i.e.prosperityfor the righteous) is now, which is the driving force behind the modern Church’s insatiable desire for more wealth and power. This false theology results in a false witness concerning Jesus and the Day of the Lord, and it will ultimately result in a great falling away at the end of the age.
If anyone would come after me, let himdeny himself and take up his crossand follow me.25For whoever wouldsave his life(in this age)will lose it(at the Day of the Lord), but whoever loses his life for my sake(exemplified in martyrdom)will find it(in the resurrection).26For what will it profit a man(in the judgment)if hegains the whole world(in this age)and forfeits his life(cf. eternal life)?…27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each personaccording to what he has done(i.e. in accordance with the will of God as a long-suffering witness). (NIVMatthew 16:24-27)
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man whohates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honorthe one who serves me. (NIVJohn 12:24-26)
E. The false prophetic witness in the OT exemplifies the False Witness at the end of the age.
I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.22But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would haveturned them from their evil waysand from their evil deeds. (NIVJeremiah 23:21-22)
Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusionsof their own minds…15I did not send them, yet they are saying, ‘No sword or famine will touch this land.’ Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine.” (NIVJeremiah 14:14-15)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders…7The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.8The Lord has senta message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel…12Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.13But the people have not returned to him who struck them, nor have they sought the LORD Almighty.14So the LORD will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day;15theelders and prominent menare the head,the prophetswho teach lies are the tail.16Those who guide this peoplemislead them, and those who are guided areled astray. (NIVIsaiah 9:6-16)
For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesusother than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive adifferent spiritfrom the one you received, or adifferent gospelfrom the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough…13For such men arefalse apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.Their end will be what their actions deserve. (NIV2 Corinthians 11:4-15)