Will Jesus Find Faith on Earth? :: by Gene Lawley

That was the question Jesus asked, as He finished telling a story about a judge who finally answered the perpetual cry of a woman’s need for justice. He said God would act speedily for His chosen ones, but that question that came next, then, seems to suggest that faith in a God with integrity of character might be missing or limited when He returns in the last days.

The context for this issue is found in Luke 18:1-8. It seems to tell us, in our prayers, to ask and keep on asking, as other passages point us in that direction. Of course, 1 John 5:14-15 speaks about the will of God being the conclusive factor in our praying:

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

Perhaps the truth is that as we continue in our prayer, the actual will of God in the matter becomes more clear and our prayer changes to fit that new information from the Holy Spirit.

The actual question Jesus raised, in Luke 18:8, was this:

“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

After launching that question, Jesus introduces the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector and their approaches to prayer:

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9).

The quality of their prayers indicate the quality of their faith, and in the case of the Pharisee, it clearly was not faith in God that he exhibited.

But the question Jesus launched, above, opens up a much broader topic than just the quality of faith in our prayers. Will He find faith on earth when He comes? When He comes to the earth, it will be at His second coming, when He plants His feet on the Mount of Olives, wraps up the final phases of the Tribulation, and begins His one-thousand-year reign over the earth (Zechariah 14:4, Revelation 20).

In a recent article I quoted the rather consistent rendition of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, which says this:

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition…” (NKJV)

The contention is that the Greek words from which the translation “falling away” is obtained really should be a reference to the Rapture, that is, a “calling away,” or “departure.” I was hammered for using the “falling away” concept of a turning away from God in the last days.

As I looked into it, again, it seems that while there is the contention that it is referring to the Rapture (not my issue at the moment), those at that frame of mind also reject any fact of an increasing rejection of God and faith in Jesus Christ. At least it is so in the western world, dramatically so in the societies of America and Europe. Consider the evidence of such in school classrooms and in public situations.

It came to mind to look at the various English language versions to see how they each handled the phrase “falling away” in the 2 Thessalonians 2:3 verse. The Bible Gateway software has over fifty English versions and paraphrases accessible. I found, to my surprise, even, that some variation of “falling away” was used consistently in almost all of the versions, such as falling away, of course, then apostasy, rebellion, great rebellion, revolt. Most often were “falling away” and “rebellion.”  

When “departure” was used a couple of times, it was not clarified if it meant “departure from the faith,” or “departure to heaven.” There were two sections for “The Message,” both paraphrases, and the first one seemed to embrace the Rapture idea. The 1599 Geneva Bible version worded the phrase like this: “that day shall not come, except there come a departing first…” But no translation renders the phrase in specific indication that the meaning is the Rapture of the saints.

I have not been one to rely too independently upon the “early church fathers,” especially those after the first century, but to look back to the earliest church fathers, such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter James and Jude.  It is there that we begin to see how God has woven the “scarlet thread” of the gospel of grace consistently through the writings of those men and His confirmation of that message as they preached it in that first century. Even so, it was  Paul who told the Ephesian elders, “after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you” (Acts 20:29).

The question, then, is this: “How is it that the translations in English almost consistently give us the meaning in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as a ‘turning away from God,’ not a departure to God?” Are they, those translators, marching to the same drumbeat that was established centuries ago, or is the Greek rendition that Paul used in his original writing actually saying what he meant?

Strong’s Concordance tells us that the English word for the Greek that is translated “falling away” is apostasia, meaning “defection, apostasy, revolt.” So we can properly place Paul’s words to Timothy in proper perspective in regard to that verse in 2 Thessalonians as he imparts that same message to his disciple in 1 Timothy 4:1-2:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron….”

As well as 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

Further in 2 Thessalonians 2 Paul specifically pinpoints the Rapture’s occurrence, in verses 6-8, and there is no question there, in my opinion. The issue that seems to be ignored in disbelief and rejection is that matter of a “turning away from God” in these last days.  By the gathering clouds we predict the weather that is coming…what did Jesus say of that in relation to the signs of the times:

“Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:54-56).

So then, I looked again at Luke 17:26-37. That passage tells us that “as it was in the days of Noah, and in the days of Lot, so shall it be when the Son of Man returns.” Jesus mentions activities in play that are not directly noted in the Old Testament passages telling of Noah and of Lot. And, He does not mention the sinfulness of those who lived in the times of Noah and of Lot.  

Before Noah was given the task of building an ark, God looked at the people of the earth, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). After that, God began to prepare for the judgment of the flood.

In the case of Lot’s time, the Angel of the Lord and two other angels visited Abraham, recorded in Genesis 18, and when Abraham learned of their mission, he bargained with the Angel of the Lord for the lives of any righteous people in Sodom, for the angels were sent to judge the city for its evilness.

When the two angels came to Lot’s home in Sodom, the whole male population of the town came to his door, demanding release of those two “men” to them that they might degrade them in immorality. The next day the angels could barely get Lot and his family to leave the city before God’s judgment fell upon it with fire and brimstone.

These are the “as it was” situations before Noah and Lot were taken out of the way of God’s judgment. According to Jesus, that is the way it will be when He comes to take believers in Him out of the way of the coming judgment of the last days. Likewise, there will be a turning away from God leading up to that moment. But also, there will be those whose hearts are drawn to Him and they are converted, for God’s plan of salvation does not shut down entirely, as shown in those ancient times of Noah and Lot. And note that the judgment came upon those who were left behind, not those who were taken out of the way, that is, Noah and Lot were not taken away to judgment.

In these last days the indictment of Romans 3:18 becomes more and more apparent: “there is no fear of God before their eyes.” If the words of Solomon carry any weight of truth—“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10)—then the raging rejection of the  results of the recent election has no integrity and reveals a rejection, actually, of right for wrong, good for evil. This has nothing to do with the person who was elected, but the reality of where the nation was headed and whether there is wisdom in the changes of direction so promised.

The senseless protests and vile accusations in open declarations, and then, the hidden plans and purposes to return the nation to its planned destruction brings to mind the two times Solomon noted this proverb: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25).

Jesus said, “…for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it, because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14).

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