Proclaiming Christ's Return
A Message by Billy Graham
February 1, 2009
I have felt for a long time that the church has long neglected prophetic truth and, as a result, has failed to carry out God’s revealed program not only for the church itself but has failed to tell the world of God’s plan for the future.
The church has failed to keep divine objectives in view because she has neglected the prophetic message of the Word of God. This neglect has caused Christians bewilderment, confusion and ignorance in a world that seems to be disintegrating around them. Many Christians needlessly wring their hands and ask, “What is going to happen to us? What does the future hold?” Many of them are filled with fear, even though our Lord said, “Fear not.”
I believe there is a worldwide tragedy as a result of a neglect of the prophetic Scriptures. Through the centuries men and women have been experimenting with their own social, national and international programs. They have been trying to bring about a righteousness that is not of God and, therefore, it is not obtainable. Instead, it results in a recurring national collapse and sometimes in worldwide calamity. We are heading for one of those collapses at the present hour.
Today, when the church should be leading the way out of the darkness that covers the Earth, it is all too obvious that we are unable to do so because of our spiritual impotence and lack of knowledge. The church today stands sadly in the midst of the ever-increasing ruins of a civilization the church itself helped to create but seemingly has little power or even desire to save.
Acts 15:14-18 is the record of the first all-church conference. It was held in Jerusalem and concerned the work of the church in the first century. The chairman of the conference was the Apostle James. He said: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: “After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.” Known to God from eternity are all His works.
Thus the program of the church is outlined. It begins with the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, His resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It continues with the Great Commission to go into all the world and proclaim the message of the Gospel.
Salt and Light
The church is not a political organization or a social reform society. Individual Christians may work for political reforms and for social betterment, and in many cases we should do so. As the salt of the earth, we have a responsibility for being the preservative of society. As the light of the world, we must let our light so shine that people seeing our good works may glorify our Father in heaven.
But the church must keep on the main highway outlined in the Word of God and witness to the nations not only concerning the truth of salvation but also the truth of the program of God for the whole world, especially witnessing to the glorious consummation of the age when Jesus Christ is going to return.
This is what the Apostle Paul did when he preached to the Athenians as recorded in Acts 17. Taking his text from the altar of the unknown god, which he discovered while walking around Athens, he declared, “In Him we live and move and have our being” and “we are also His offspring” (Acts 17:28).
Warning against the worship of gods of gold and silver and graven stone, Paul continued, “These times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30, 31).
The church should be boldly proclaiming the deity and authority of Jesus as the powerful antidote to the present trend toward world chaos. The whole human race is going after false messiahs and false prophets, false religions and other gods. They will continue this way unless they are continuously taught that God has been manifested authoritatively in the flesh and the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
While there has been a great evangelical revival in the church throughout the world, there are many evangelicals who neglect the prophetic program as laid out in Scripture. Therefore, millions of people and millions of professing Christians have little hope in the future. They have not been told that our hope is in the return of Jesus Christ.
A Turn Toward Humanism
Many have turned from regeneration to the philosophy of humanism. This supposedly universal solvent in the last analysis is truly the opium of the people. It blinds them to truth so that while they ignore the reality and nature of evil, they are also deluded into believing that even the present evil is some sort of process of change for the better. They declare that even this latest reversion to savagery is but the birth pangs of a better day. The progressive humanistic interpretation of the message of the Bible is the basis of many of the programs of so-called Christian conferences today, and the gospel of social change has taken the place of the Gospel of regeneration.
Don’t get me wrong. I am for social change. In many countries of the world it is desperately needed. Even in our own country some of the structures of society need to be changed, even though most people do not know how they need to be changed or by what methods they should be changed. I have yet to find a person to tell me where the ideal government exists in the world. There can be no ideal government based upon human nature as it is. That is why it is so important that human nature be changed. That is why Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
One Mandate Only
There is one clear mandate to the church, and that is to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. The results of the church’s neglect of the prophecies of the Bible are pathetic and tragic. Had we kept the message and program true to the prophetic Word, it would have been kept in its proper spiritual orbit.
There would never have been the deadly ecclesiasticism of the Middle Ages—which caused the church to glory in her form, ceremonies and temporal power. There might never have been the divisions that followed the Protestant Reformation, which brought a section of the church to the truth and yet created confusion in the world by sectarianism. The expectancy of Christ coming again would have kept the church unified, holy, otherworldly and energetic, balanced with a passion for social reform and social justice.
I have found that where churches are preaching the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the churches are evangelistic and concerned with the social needs of the people round about them. These churches also recognize the Bible as the authoritative Word of God instead of denying it.
Only God Knows
Only God knows the future and can foretell it with accuracy. In this connection, Peter says, “we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:16). But he did say that in the message of prophecy there shines a light in a dark place, until the darkness of this day is over and the day of the Kingdom of God dawns.
The Bible teaches that the future Great Ruler of the world will be Jesus Christ. He shall rule in righteousness and equity, and shall make the knowledge of God to cover the earth as the waters cover the seas. He shall destroy wars and its miseries. Upon His shoulder, world government shall rest. His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.
If you don’t know Christ, you can come to know Him personally today by confessing and turning from your sin, and receiving Christ into your heart right now, and you can be prepared for the future.