The World's Conversion
What did Jesus say would be the condition of the world just prior to His coming?
"As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man." Luke 17:26. (See also verses 27-30, and Matthew 24:37-39.) In the days of Noah, "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." "And the earth was filled with violence." Genesis 6:5, 11.
NOTE: Men everywhere recognize the prevailing wickedness of our times. Drunkenness, vice, crime, and debauchery have increased alarmingly. Selfishness and pride fill the hearts of men to the exclusion of righteousness. Civilization today is repeating the sins of the days of Noah.
According to the parable of the wheat and tares, how long do the good and bad remain together?
"The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil." "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them." Matthew 13:38, 39, 30. "The harvest is the end of the world." Verse 39.
NOTE: Thus it is plain that the wicked (the tares) live with the righteous (the wheat) till the end of the world. There is, then, no time before Christ's coming for a sinless state, in which all men will be converted.
Did Christ tell us that worldwide preaching of the gospel would result in world conversion?
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." Matthew 24:14.
NOTE: He did not say that all would receive the gospel, but that the gospel was to be preached in all the world fore witness unto all nations, and that than the end would come.
"They [Jesus and the New Testament writers] anticipate no full victory for the Gospel within history. Jesus frankly declares that the large majority of mankind go on to destruction. He speaks of the end of the age and in His description of it there is tragedy, with the separation of the good from the evil and with weeping and fire for the latter. The wheat and the tares, he declares, are to be together until the harvest. . . The nature of each becomes more obvious as the harvest approaches. . . Good and evil would go on together until by His intervention, God judged and triumphed."—Kenneth Scott LaTourette, The Christian Outlook (Harper, 1948 ed.), pp. 188-189.
"Far from mentioning anything like the progressive improvement of the world, Jesus, on the contrary, foresees the end of it, preceded by an aggravation of evil which is to be a sign announcing the return of Christ. And this is the veritable object of the Christian hope which runs through all the pages of the New Testament and which the Apocalypse sets forth in a grandiose fresco." —Translated from Henri D'Espina, a Protestant professor of Geneva, reported in Gazette de Lausanne, Feb. 18, 1944, p. 3.
How did Paul describe the last days?
"In the last days perilous times shall come." 2 Timothy 3:1. "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." Verse 13.
NOTE: Commenting on the invention of the atomic bomb, E. A. Hooten, Harvard University anthropologist, said, "The present level of human behavior is so low that, man is more likely to use control of unlimited natural forces for destruction rather than constructive purposes. . . Gadets and machines are getting better and better, and man is getting worse and worse."—UP dispatch in the Washington Times-Hearald, Aug. 10, 1945.
"Modern man—the end product of all the humanizing influences of sixty centuries" sees in the looking glass "the image, not of a being grown kindly and tolerant with the years, but of one whose primitive emotions lie just below the surface, and who is easily capable of discarding the principles wrought out on Sinai and the Areopagus whenever they stand in his way. J. A. Hobson's characterization of twentieth-century man appears at first glance not too inaccurate: 'A naked Polynesian, parading in top hat and spats.' "—Raymond B. Fosdick, The New York Times Magazine, Dec. 30, 1945, p. 27.
How does Scripture describe the state of international affairs?
"Proclaim ye this among the nations; prepare war, stir up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong." Joel 3:9, 10, A.R.V.
What statement by Jeremiah about conditions in his day equally applies to our own time?
"They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace." Jeremiah 6:14.
NOTE: lt is one of the anomalies of our time that men have been talking peace and at the same time preparing for war. In spite of a series of treaties of disarmament and renunciation of war, the great powers went into the most destructive conflict of all time. Less than a year after that was ended, it could be said that the assumption that the nations would remain "united for all time to uphold a single world order of peace —- is manifesting itself to be an illusion. The chances that the one-world conception can be rescued from utter disintegration are growing smaller, smaller, smaller." -— Editorial, The Christian Century, May 29, 1946, p. 679.
How stood the prospects for international atomic control after three years? "The plain fact is that we're worse off as a world than we were three years ago. Worse off because we've stopped thinking about the whole problem. Because some of the imaginary deadlines posted back in 1945 have been passed and nothing has happened, people — some people — are beginning to say this man-made earthquake isn't so bad after all. Believe me, it is." -—David Lillienthal, Chairman, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, quoted in Life, Sept. 27, 1948, p. 115.
Will talking about world peace create a false security?
"There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." 2 Peter 3:3, 4. "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them... But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4.
NOTE: Those in darkness are looking for a time of peace and safety, and those not in darkness are looking for the day of the Lord -— a day of destruction -— the end of the world and the coming of Christ. (See Jeremiah 7:1-19; Daniel 12:1; Joel 2:1-11; Zephaniah 1; Matthew 25:31-46; Galatians 5:16-21.)
All heedless of the signs of the times and the warnings of the Word of God and of world events, the world will come up to the day of the Lord unprepared. As a thief in the night this day will take unawares all who are not looking, watching, and waiting for their Lord's return. Instead of Looking for the world's conversion, we should be looking for Christ's coming.
"If, as many Christians believe, our Lord's return is imminent," says Latourette, "the time is short in which to prepare their fellows for that event." -—The Christian Outlook, p. 200.
What warning to Isaiah to the faithful in his day should also be the Christian's reaction to last-day conditions?
"Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid." Isaiah 8:12. (See 1 Peter 3:14.) "When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Luke 21:28.
NOTE: The first-century Christians, says Wesner Faltaw, expected the end of the world in their day. They "were in training for life in a new world. Joy in the Lord of heaven and earth quite overcame anxiety about the cessation of one kind of life and the beginning of another.
"The fact that these Christians were mistaken in their belief that some among them would still be alive when all things were finished is unimportant. What is of primary importance for us is the face that they so strengthened each other in the faith that they could rejoice over the certainty they had that the world was about to end. And no less important for us is the cue which their conduct provides. Awaiting the end which they deemed a new beginning, they were constructively active serving their fellows, putting human head foremost and thrusting property far down the scales in value. . .
"The Christian is not anxious about tomorrow -— the scientist's likely day of world's end; rather, the Christian is joyful over the prospect of God's new era wherein more justice will be realized than the most loving of men are able to achieve." -—The Christian Century, Sept. 25, 1946. Used by permission.