And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Matthew 24:12)
We turn our attention from the Church and back to the world. How will it be operating as the Last Days approach. What will be the reaction of society to atrocities, tragedies and division? How will they respond to the call to righteousness and separation unto God? If you read the above scripture, you've already got an idea. What it means and how we can respond to it is our topic of the day.
A Note On False Prophets
We skipped over one of the scriptures in Christ's message (v.11). In it, he warns about false prophets. While they are certainly different than false Christs (i.e. a false prophet will improperly tell you how to follow God; a false Christ will tell you he is God and to follow him), a lot of what we covered in our False Christ lesson applies to false prophets. Check it out here and apply the provided example to help with transitioning the message from false Christ to false prophet. Also, here's a shortlist of false prophets from the Old Testament and New Testament:
Iniquity = Lust
When we break down the word iniquity, it basically means sinful activity. Pretty basic. However, it's interesting that this term then goes in two different paths. The first is one that we often think of when we hear iniquity or sin. It's covered succinctly in James chapter 4:
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (v. 1-4)
Lust, or iniquity, will drive us to do a lot of awful things. It will lead us to fight with one another. It will lead us to kill and destroy each other. It will lead us on a journey that is fruitless and unfulfilling. It leads us to seek not only the wrong things but also the wrong way. It leads us to make friends of the world instead of friends with God. By doing so, we set ourselves against Him.
The above scripture and our explanation matches a lot of people's pursuits these days. The pursuit of drugs, alcohol and other addictive substances sends on a journey that never leads to fulfillment. Pursuit of worldly ideas often times sets us against the ideas presented in the Bible. Human sexuality today is perverse and leads to destructive decisions and even disease. Our pursuits in this life without asking for God's guidance often leads us to coming up empty in a major way. People lie, steal, kill and debase themselves just to further their destructive pursuits. Sadly, this isn't a new thing.
The Old Testament is littered with these types of acts that mirror our world today. It's clear that this form of iniquity is wrong and fruitless. David fell into it with Bathsheba. Samson succumbed to it with Delilah. Saul fell to it with his pride and lust for power. The Israelites pursued it when they turned from God to idols. The only difference then from today is it now occurs on a larger scale and finds itself more widely acknowledged and accepted. Meanwhile, God increasingly goes unacknowledged and rejected by society.
Iniquity is easily found in the various forms of media and even in public in every nation and city today. Sinful actions are accepted and even embraced across the world. Vices vary from civilization to civilization, but they all have a great weight that is dragging into the mire of this life. The only way to avoid or escape this iniquity is to turn from our worldly pursuits and ways and align ourselves with God.
The Second Iniquity
We now turn to another form of iniquity. This type of iniquity hides in the dark places of people's hearts. It claims just as many souls as the debaucherous lifestyles and actions above. What is this iniquity? James 5 gives us the definitive answer:
Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. (v. 1-6)
We've heard a number of people wonder why some people get rich/are successful even though they don't care about God or pursue relationship with God. If God is just, why are they allowed to prosper? Jesus tells us that God allows blessings to fall on everyone (Matthew 5:45). However, James reveals what will happen to those who gain it the wrong way. They may have success today, but their riches will disappear and it will not save them in the end. They will find themselves hollow and unfulfilled in their life just as those who pursue lust. They have made their living on the backs of others and built up their judgment. God will deal with them as He does all who refuse to turn. He also will allow them to find salvation if they choose that path.
In the Old Testament, we see those who find success having trouble once they attain it. Solomon was wise and wealthy. His wealth ended up supplanting his wisdom. Pharaoh was wealthy and blessed. However, his wealth could not comfort him and he became so paranoid he tried to annihilate an entire generation of Hebrew boys. Herod would do the same thing even though it had been explained to him that the Messiah had been born. The pursuit of success and wealth can lead powerful people down some dark roads. It's still happening today.
The wealthy get wealthier and they do it on the backs of an increasingly impoverished lower class worldwide. People spend their entire lives in sweatshops so CEOs and a select few can become billionaires instead of just millionaires. Governments, municipalities and businesses make deals that disenfranchise millions for the sake of better deals. These wealthy people and groups will give to charity, but often do so out of guilt or for the purposes of making more wealth. This was exposed when people scaled back their giving recently because it would no longer benefit them financially. If it's not from the heart, then it's not really giving.
You don't have to be rich to be consumed with success and wealth, either. People who are dirt poor can get caught up in the pursuit of the almighty dollar at the expense of the Almighty Provider. We quit church to take a second job or more hours. We put off paying tithes because we won't make bills. We sacrifice time with Jesus to squeeze into the avenue of success. While money can get tight, God will provide when we sacrifice. We just have to get the right narrative in our mind.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
Making money and being successful are not sinful. However, the love of them is the root of evil and can lead us to some dangerous places. We'll lose sight of what really matters and also lose love for those around us. And that topic - lovelessness - is where we will pick up next time. That's right! You'll be getting a double dose of the Revelation Series this week. We'll also return with the Revelation Podcast and try to cram all of our thoughts on these topics into one episode. Until then, God bless and keep searching.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.