I try to stay focused on what’s happening in the world as it relates to Bible prophecy—part of my assignment from God. And what’s occurring in the world today all points to the approaching return of Jesus Christ. However, another important part of my assignment is to deal with what God is saying as a warning to His church. Before we talk about a warning to the sinner or to America or to the nations of the world, I believe God wants us to deal with and respond to a sobering warning to the church.
I, and other prophetic preachers, often run into people who scoff at us, calling us “doom and gloomers” and “negative preachers.” When I hear those accusations, my first question is always, “Since when is preaching the return of the Son of God somehow doom and gloom and bad news to the people who are supposed to be looking for Him?”
In 2 Timothy, Paul talks to believers, and especially “last days” believers, who turn away from the truth: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come [a direct reference to the final times] when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:1-4, bracketed notation mine).
Let’s look at a few specifics in this passage as we consider what it means to us today. The itching ears phrase refers to people wanting those who preach and teach to speak only pleasantries: “Don’t give us any bad news … anything strong or harsh … anything negative.” The spirit of the last days will say, “Tickle our ears (that is what itching ears literally means: to scratch or to tickle). Don’t tell me what I really need to hear, but rather what I want to hear.” Many in the church have this desire for their ears to be tickled.
Consequently, those in the church will start to move away from the truth. They will be filled with a lie because they do not love the truth (see 2 Thess. 2:10-11). They will have ears only to hear something pleasing and believe fables. In this passage, the Greek word for fables is mythos—the root word for mythology, meaning “something concocted with falsehoods.”
A Godly Man’s Vision
I came across a warning from a man who lived more than 100 years ago. You’ve probably heard of him: General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. Before it was known as the Salvation Army, his organization was originally named Christian Revival Society. This unique preacher had a burning passion to see true revival come to his generation.
God gave General Booth a prophetic dream that would become a clear and sobering warning. His vision included six parts still relevant to us today—maybe even more so than when he preached them. His revelations have proven to be extremely accurate.
As the 20th century began, Booth was asked by someone what he saw as the greatest dangers for the next hundred years. Below are what he identified as the chief dangers which would confront the coming century.
Politics Without God
General Booth saw that there would be a day when civil government in the Western world would no longer have the fear of God. I thank God for the founding of this nation. We do still have “In God We Trust” on our currency.
But the question for us now is: What god do we really trust in anymore? Is it the one, true God? Is it the Creator of heaven and earth? Or is it one of the many false gods worshipped in America? Which god are we really trusting in?
If they had their way, some people right now would remove “In God We Trust” from our currency. They are already starting to do it. When will God judge America? Perhaps He already is. Perhaps it has already begun yet we are too blind to see it. Where is the real power of the Word of God in America today? The true power is lacking.
Heaven Without Hell
I challenge anyone to name a preacher today, at least in the media world, who will still preach a message on hell. It’s difficult to come up with one. In fact, we have countless preachers who go out of their way not to even mention hell. Consider these Scriptures and what God says about those who deceive others:“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6).
We desperately need men of the cross and men of the Word who still call themselves “preachers of the gospel” and will be bold enough to say there is still a heaven to gain and a hell to shun.
Salvation Without Repentance
If you were to ask Christians today to repent, many would wonder, “Repent? What does that mean?”
Forgiveness from sin without repentance from sin is the popular message of the day. John the Baptist said it this way in Matthew 3:7-8: “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (NASB).
The spirit of John the Baptist and the spirit of Elijah are coming again, which must precede the return of Jesus Christ. The message of these two prophets and the message today will still be to repent and flee the wrath to come. What we hear today from a totally self-absorbed, consumer church is “fix my problems” and “it’s not my fault.” We want forgiveness, but we don’t want to repent.
Booth was right. Repentance is a forgotten, lost word in the church today.
Salvation Without Regeneration
General Booth predicted that we would see increasing numbers of people claiming to have salvation yet not having truly become new creatures in Christ.
The preaching of “You must be born again” must be discovered in our gospel message. Clarity on these points is even more crucial today because we live in an hour when a counterfeit “New Age gospel” is preached on every corner. We’re told we can be “saved” without getting bogged down in boring, old-fashioned, stuffy doctrine. And the idea of being “saved” without going overboard with a lot of Bible language, doctrine and ultimately truth tickles the ears of many.
Most preachers today couldn’t even biblically define regeneration, much less actually preach it boldly in their pulpits on Sunday mornings! In my very own city, one of the largest churches here decided not long ago that they shouldn’t even “bother” wasting their precious service time (which is only 59 minutes long—with a guarantee) to partake of Holy Communion anymore. The church has stopped receiving communion entirely in Sunday services in this large church.
We have salvation without real regeneration.
Religion Without the Holy Spirit
Few have understood as well as General Booth that religious conformity is quite different from genuine conversion brought by the Holy Spirit.
Second Timothy 3:5 says that in the last days we will face an epidemic of those, “Having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
Jude sounded a similar warning: In the last days, there will be an increase of those who are “devoid of the spirit” (Jude 18-19, NASB).
Years ago a great man of God said, “If the Holy Spirit left the planet tonight at midnight, tomorrow morning 99 percent of church activity, church programs and Christian ministry would go on untouched.” A sad commentary. Yet, I agree with him.
Too often we “do” church out of soul-centered hype, leading in the flesh. It’s done merely by carnal manipulation. I am convinced that the so-called church in America will simply show up for a good show and not even really know or be able to discern if it is the Holy Spirit or not. It’s a good show, so we go and watch as spectators. But it might not be the Holy Spirit.
I write this with brokenness. I write this with sadness. I write this as a warning as I pray today, “Lord, give us spiritual discernment to sense and know Your Spirit.” We have preachers today claiming to carry every kind of strange and unbiblical “anointing,” yet we see Christian religion void of the true, precious Holy Spirit.
Christianity Without Christ
General Booth foresaw the rise of a form of pseudo-Christians, characterized as those who are “denying the Master who bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1, KJV). The bedrock of our message must always be the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “We preach Christ crucified,” (NIV) and in verse 18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Why do we have such a powerless church today? Oh, we put on a good show and stir up a lot of soul-centered hype, which may result in large offerings. But there is little to no power of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because we do not preach the cross. We do not preach Christ crucified.
Church, hear me: The cross is our power. A strong delusion that all religions need to simply “coexist”—that no matter what you believe, we can all still “get along”—is infiltrating the church today. It may sound good and “spiritual,” but it’s not scriptural. You can’t find that in the Bible, and I refuse to compromise the Word of God.
May you who have “ears to hear” truly hear this timely prophetic warning.
Dr. Joe VanKoevering has been in ministry for more than 30 years. He is president of the national ministry God’s News and senior pastor of Gateway Christian Center in St. Petersburg, Fla. He has written multiple books prophetic in nature and has a heart for end-time events and proclaiming the truth of God’s Word.