If you are interested in evangelism, you need to be well acquainted with the writings and the speeches of the apostle Peter, because there are hundreds of millions of people in the world who have a special regard for the apostle Peter. They say that he was the first head of their church.
I love to talk to my Roman Catholic friends about the apostle Peter. I just love it! They are shocked when they find out what the apostle Peter said. Did you know that it is recorded in Acts 10 that a man by the name of Cornelius was so happy to see the apostle Peter that he knelt down to worship him?
The apostle Peter said, “Stand up, I am just a man.” Did you know that the first pope would not even allow anybody to get down on their knees in front of him? Something has changed, has it not? Well, the apostle Peter had something to say about the last days.
Where is the Promise?
“Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days [Some translations say “mockers.”], walking according to 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 creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:3.
Now notice what the apostle Peter says is going to happen in the last days, the days in which you and I are living. He says there are going to be scoffers. What are they going to scoff at? They are going to scoff at the idea of creation. They are going to scoff at the idea that the world came into existence by the word of God.
The apostle Paul talked about this, too. Paul said in the last day perilous times will come. (See 2 Timothy 3.)
Let me list for you three things that have happened in the last 200 years, things which have brought the world into greater spiritual peril than at any previous time in world history.
- The Development of Higher Criticism.
I attended Andrews University. Do not let anybody think that I am recommending that you go there. That is one of the most dangerous places in the world that you could go for an education. My son is an engineer, and he went to a Seventh-day Adventist College in Washington State. When he went there, I talked to him. I said, “Son, it is all right with me if you go to this place and study engineering, but I do not want you to study theology there.”
Now that seems strange. I studied theology at that very place. I told my son, I do not want you to study Bible, and I do not want you to study theology there. Why? Because in our time, theology has become one of the most dangerous things to study in the universities and colleges.
Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, but one of the reasons has to do with the development of higher criticism. The net result of higher criticism is that after you have studied for several years under teachers who have imbibed these theories (and they have imbibed them from other universities where they got their doctoral degrees in theology) you have a completely different idea about the Bible. You do not have nearly as much confidence in the Bible anymore.
You no longer look at it as the infallible Word of God. Christian leaders need to know that we are up against a world of unbelief.
The Age of Unbelief
We are producing a series of programs for television on the age of unbelief—the time in which we are living. Higher criticism is a big part of this. It has destroyed faith in the Bible for the majority of Christian ministers and priests.
There are preachers all over the world who claim to be Protestant preachers and Catholic priests, and they do not believe what the Bible says about how the world came into existence. They do not believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. They do not believe in the virgin birth. They do not believe in the blood atonement, and they do not believe in the Second Coming of Christ.
Have you ever read, in the papers or magazines, about meetings where theologians get together and discuss the Second Coming of Christ? Most of them do not believe in it. Why? the outgrowth and development of higher criticism. Christian religious leaders all over the world do not believe the Bible the way Martin Luther, John Calvin and our spiritual forefathers did.
This has brought the world into the most perilous time since the creation of the world. But there are two other things that have happened in the last 200 years that have also brought the world into these perilous times.
- The Development of the Theory of Evolution and Uniformitarianism.
In 2 Peter 3, Peter specified that in the last days the theory of uniformitarianism would be taught. That is the theory that all things continue as they were from the beginning.
In 1979, during the Christmas season, my sister’s family, my parents and I were all visiting my brother, Marshall. He and his family were pastoring a church in Pennsylvania. We decided one day to take a trip to the Smithsonian Institute, one of the largest museums in the world. It has many, many different buildings; you cannot visit everything in one day. I decided I was going to go through the geology building.
I knew what I would find. They would say that the earth was millions of years old. By the way, you can figure out from the Bible, within fifty years, how old the world is. It is around 6000 years old right now.
Of course geologists say that the world is billions of years old; the common figure is four and one-half billion years. So I went into their geology building, because I wanted to know what their evidence is.
One Piece of Evidence
Do you know what evidence they have? They have only one piece of evidence for the whole thing. I went through the whole building. I looked at all the exhibits and the explanations and found they only have one piece of evidence—a theory. It is the theory of uniformitarianism. Do you know what the theory of uniformitarianism is? They look at the depth of the sediment at the bottom of a lake. Then they measure and they say that the sediment is gathering at the rate of 1/16 of an inch per year, so that means that this lake is x many years old.
Everything just continues the same. That is the theory of uniformitarianism. That, along with the theory of evolution, has worked to destroy the confidence of men in the Bible and the inspired writings of God.
I am glad that at least some evolutionists are candid, that they know what they believe. One of the leading educators, who is an evolutionist, has written “Now if the theory of evolution is really true, it has to mean the following. It has to mean that there is no God, or gods, there is no such thing as a moral law, and there is no such thing as a future. When you die, that is the end of everything. Also, there is no such thing as free choice.”
He just listed those four things. If evolution is true, then those four things have to be so. We are living in a time when, if you go to any university anywhere in the world—not just the United States—but Europe, Africa, South America, Australia, this theory has permeated all fields of learning.
Made in the Image of Whom?
Has that brought the world into a spiritual crisis? When you are bringing up a young child, does it make a difference in their behavior whether they think they are made in the image of God or they think that they descended from an ape? It makes all the difference in the world in their behavior. Do you want your children to act like animals, or like sons and daughters of God?
The first development has affected the entire religious world. The second development has involved the entire educational and scientific world, every field of human thought. The third development in the world has involved just about everybody except the people who believe in the Bible and know some things in the Bible.
- The Development of Modern Spiritualism
This development, which started in 1848, has affected the entire world, and it is affecting everybody It affects atheists, agnostics, evolutionists, scientists, government leaders and church leaders in both Catholic and Protestant faiths. It has permeated the whole world.
Those three things show us how dangerous the world has become and why we are living in an age and world of unbelief. Peter talked about it, Paul talked about it, and God knew about it.
What Would You Do?
Let me ask you this question, and I want you to think about it. If you were in God’s position thousands of years ago, and you foresaw what was going to happen in the world in the last days, and you knew what the devil was going to do to deceive the whole world, (God had His prophet record in Revelation 12:9 how the devil would deceive the whole world); and you wanted to save as many people as you could, what would you do?
Let us see what God said He was going to do about it. In the Old Testament, one of the greatest prophets. Elijah, came to the Children of Israel at a time when they were in a time like we are in today, when there was an apostasy and people did not believe in the God of heaven, and they were kneeling down to Baal and idols.
Elijah came with a message. It was a stern message, but it woke up a lot of people.There was a great that went throughout the land and throughout the Children of Israel.
Ever after that time whenever a prophet arose who brought a great reformation, they would call them an Elijah prophet. God talked about this through the prophet Malachi: “‘Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.’” Malachi 4:5, 6.
The Elijah Prophet for the End Times
Our heavenly Father, foreseeing the great crisis that the world would be brought into in the last days because of the theories of higher criticism, the theories of evolution, and because of the working of spiritualism which has inundated the world with deception, said, “Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, I know that you are going to go into perilous times. You are going to be in very deceptive times. The devil is going to deceive the whole world, but I am going to do something special for My people. I am going to send you Elijah the prophet.”
So the Jews began to look for the coming of Elijah the prophet. When Jesus came, the Jews were looking for the coming of Elijah the prophet. “Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ [That is the prophet Moses predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15.] And he answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?’ He said: ‘I am “The voice of one crying in the wilderness;’ Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.’ Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. And they asked him saying, ‘Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’ John answered them, saying, ‘I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.’” John 1:19–26.
Here is what the problem was with the Jews. It is a problem among many Christians today; I hope it is not your problem. You know the Bible says that spiritual things are spiritually discerned. (See 1 Corinthians 2:14.) You read that and if you cannot discern spiritual things and all you can see is literal things, you are going to be in trouble. You are not going to understand the Word of God.
The Jews knew that God had taken Elijah in a chariot up into heaven in the days of Ahab. Elijah was up there, and they said, “Before the Messiah comes (this is what they taught) God is going to send Elijah, the same one who spoke to Ahab and Jezebel. God is going to send him back down from heaven to us.” And so they asked John, “Are you Elijah? You know, the one that talked to Ahab and Jezebel,” and John said, “No, no I am not.”
Do you know what they said then? They said, “Well, then the Messiah cannot be coming yet, because before the Messiah comes Elijah has to come back down from heaven.” What was their problem? They did not discern spiritual things. Was John the Baptist the Elijah prophet who was promised? Yes, he was. Jesus said so.
In Matthew 11:11–14 it says, “‘Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he [that is greater in privilege]. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.’”
More than a Prophet
Was John the Baptist the Elijah prophet? Yes, he was. And notice what Jesus said about the Elijah prophet. He said, “This person is a prophet all right, but he is more than a prophet.”
Now let me tell you something. This is the very best news on the face of the earth right now. There have been three times since the beginning of the world that God has sent His children, because of the crisis they were in, not just a prophet, but somebody who was more than a prophet.
The first time God sent His children somebody who was more than a prophet was when He sent Moses. Miriam and Aaron were prophets, too. One time they got jealous of Moses, and they said, “Well, has God spoken through Moses and has He not also spoken through us?” (See Numbers 12:2.) Do you remember what the Lord said to them? He said, “Why were you not afraid to speak like this about My servant Moses?” And the Lord said to them, “If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make Myself known to him in a vision and dream, but My servant Moses is not so. I will speak to him face to face or mouth to mouth.” (See Numbers 12:6–8.) Moses was more than just a prophet.
The second time God sent His children somebody who was more than a prophet was when He sent John the Baptist. When Jesus came, that was the most important event of the ages. Before Jesus came God sent His children somebody who was a prophet all right, but somebody who was more than a prophet because that was a crisis period and they needed it.
The third time God sent His children somebody who was a prophet, who was more than a prophet, was in the last days. God said, “I am going to send you Elijah the prophet.” Now the Elijah prophet before the first coming was more than a prophet, and the Elijah prophet before the Second Coming is more than a prophet, too. We will see that soon. This is the best possible news I could tell you
You and I are living in the most spiritually dangerous time of all the ages, and we need special instruction from heaven to keep us focused in Bible truth. We are dealing with the world. Even the people who are the spiritual leaders of the world do not have confidence in the Scriptures anymore because of the theories of higher criticism.
The scientific community and the educated people do not have confidence in the Bible because of the theories of geology and evolution, which they have been taught since they were young. And nobody, believes, in what this Book teaches anymore, who has been involved in spiritualism because they have been taught opposite theories that are contrary to this Book.
God knew that this would happen, Jesus predicted it in Luke 18, and so He promised through Malachi the prophet. He said that before the great and dreadful day of the Lord, He was going to do something special for us. He knew we were going to be in trouble: we were going to be in perilous times. There were going to be scoffers; there were going to be mockers. It was going to be an age of unbelief.
So the Lord said, “I am going to send to you Elijah the prophet, somebody who is more than a prophet.” John the Baptist was more than a prophet. The Elijah prophet is to be more than a prophet. We know that from the words of Jesus in Matthew 11.
The great tragedy that happened to the Jews is that the Elijah prophet came. They asked him, “Are you Elijah? Are you the one that talked to Ahab and Jezebel?” He said, “No, I am not.” So they said, “That is not the Elijah prophet” and they left, and they missed out. Here they had had contact with the man whom Jesus said there had never been anybody born of a woman who was greater than this man. (See Matthew 11:11.) He was more than a prophet. He was a special messenger sent to prepare the people for the Messiah.
Do you know whom it was that became Jesus’ disciples? If you study the New Testament, you will find that when Jesus came it was the people who had been with John the Baptist. Was it important whether or not they knew whom the Elijah prophet was? Well, it made all the difference in the world whether or not they would be ready to meet the Messiah.
Now the Jews had the Bible, that is the Old Testament. That was all that had been written so far. Sometimes I meet people who say, “Pastor John, I do not need any more prophecy. I have the Bible.” I say, “Oh, bless your heart, I have the Bible, too, and I love every word of it.”
But do you realize, my dear friend, that those Jews in the time of Christ missed what God wanted them to know because they did not accept the gift of prophecy that God sent to them just before Jesus came? They missed it! The most wonderful thing that God sent to them and they missed it! That was part of the reason they rejected the Messiah.