Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and T.A., I heard you say that some people refer to you as being too negative. No way! You guys are so far beyond negative you make that state look like a party. You are both pure gloom and doom. You believe these are the last days. So then what about God pouring His Spirit on all flesh in the last days? Sounds like we are in for a great revival, and given all the media attention directed at The Purpose Driven Life and the way it has revitalized churches around the world, I’d say Rick Warren is bringing about if not a revival certainly the greatest reawakening in the church since the 1800s.
Tom: Doom and gloom, Dave. Now are you doom and I’m gloom, or am I gloom and you’re doom? No, seriously, I don’t know that this verse about pouring out His flesh in the last days applies to this time. I think it has to do—isn’t it at the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ, or what do you think?
Dave: Well, Tom, Jesus raised the question, “When the Son of man returns, will He find the faith on the earth?” So that doesn’t sound like a great revival. When we talk about a great awakening in the church today, you’ve got some large churches, but awakening to what? Is the truth being preached? Are people repenting? Are they coming as repentant sinners to Christ? Is there any sense of God’s judgment hanging over this world, and so forth? No, they want to cozy up to God so that they can become successful and happy and so forth. That’s pretty much—not everywhere, but that’s the “great awakening,” and it doesn’t sound like any great awakening we’ve had in the past.
Now, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh….” Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost quoted from Joel, and he said, “This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel.” So you could say, “Well, it already occurred. The early church, they were in the last days, and we are in the last of the last days.”
And Paul said, “That day (that is the day of the Lord, the day of Christ) will not come except there come a great apostasy.”
Tom: Or falling away, 2 Thessalonians.
Dave: Right. So is the Spirit of God being poured out on all flesh today? I would say it still is, but men are resisting the Holy Spirit. So it depends on how you want to understand the Scripture. It also depends upon the reaction that a person is going to take. And even in Noah’s day, you could say the Spirit of God was poured out upon all flesh, because God says, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” So apparently the Spirit of God was at work in the conscience of everybody.
Tom: But only eight received it.
Dave: Actually only one: Noah, because his family got in the ark because of him. It says, “One man found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” So, Tom, yes, I believe that the Spirit of God is convicting people of sin, of righteousness, and judgment to come. As Jesus said in John 16, “When He, the Spirit of Truth is come,” this is what He is going to do. The Holy Spirit is still here, but men’s consciences are seared “as with a hot iron.” They have hardened their hearts against God. And I don’t see in the Bible that there must be some great revival before the Rapture. I find the contrary in Scripture. “Will the Son of man find faith, the faith, on the earth?” Sounds rather negative.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Dave, in the March newsletter 2005, this month, I mentioned strong delusion. You quoted from 2 Thessalonians 2. Strong delusion—that certainly doesn’t lend itself to revival, and it says God will send strong delusion. How do you understand that?
Dave: Well, Tom, on the one hand, a person could say, “Well look, how can God blame anybody if He gives them a strong delusion?”
It says, “For this cause, God shall send them strong delusion that they all believe the lie, that they all might be damned who have pleasure in unrighteousness. They received not the love of the truth.” Well, that’s their problem! They had an opportunity, and now God says, “Look, it suits My purpose to help you to be deluded. I’m going to help you believe the lie you want to believe.” God says, “Look, there is no way that I can persuade you to believe the truth, because you have resisted the truth; you have rejected the truth; you have had pleasure in unrighteousness… Well then, I’m going to help you to believe the lie you want to believe so that you will follow the Antichrist, and my judgment is going to come upon this earth.”
It’s like Pharaoh. It says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Well, it’s not really—in the Hebrew, it says, “He strengthened him in his resolve.” The point came where Pharaoh was terrified of these plagues; he would have let the people go for the wrong reasons, and God said, “I’m going to give you the guts to keep saying “no” as you want to until I have finished judging the false gods of Egypt.”
So that would be the way I would understand that. Men have a choice, and when they make their choice—as I just quoted from Genesis 6, “My Spirit will not always strive with man.” God is going to let people go. He will try to persuade them to believe the truth, to repent, and when they harden their hearts as Pharaoh did, and as the people of God did, as the Jews did… Wow! How they hardened their hearts, and God pleaded with them and pleaded with them, and finally He said, “That’s enough. I’m going to turn you over to a reprobate mind,” as we read in Romans 1, “and I will help you believe the very lie you want to believe, and My judgment is going to come upon you.”
Tom: And, Dave, as far as doom and gloom goes, we’re to look up! “Our redemption draweth nigh.” Jesus told us about these warnings. He said, “Watch out that no man deceive you.” And as you said earlier, there’s no circumstance in which we can’t have the joy of the Lord. So this is not doom and gloom, this is what God says. Yes, these things are going to come about, but we need to be in Him.
Dave: Doom and gloom, Tom, that’s just a phrase. You could aim that at Jesus—He said, “Except you repent, you will all likewise perish.” You could aim it at John the Baptist, at Jeremiah, and so forth. No, what we want to do is just express the truth of the Word of God in love.