30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
October 1, 2000
Speaker: Richie Thetford
"The Folly of Speculation"
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. I want to thank each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine another truth of God's word. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly examine your heart to ensure that you are in fact doing only those things that are pleasing to our almighty God. As we discuss the topic of the hour,"The Folly of Speculation", I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact God's will for you. Remember, the Bible clearly states that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). It is my hope that each one of you this morning will have the kind of heart that the Bereans did back in the first century. It was said of them that "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Also the apostle John warns us that we should "....not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). By looking at the Bible passages, you can see for yourself that what I am teaching this morning can in fact be backed up by book, chapter, and verse in the Bible. This is so vitally important as we strive to do only that which is authorized by God and not what some man may say about a given subject. Now I invite you to please have your Bible, pen and paper ready and let's study together another truth of God.
Of all of man's thinking in the field of religion, the fruitless comes in the realm of speculation. By this I mean, guesing on what the scripture does not say. Men try to read between the lines of the Bible, and find hidden meanings and implied principles that the writers have not made clear. In this realm of sheer guess work, men advertise themselves as masters in the interpretation of obscure passages or gifted revealers of symbolic language of the Bible. They claim an insight to the prophesy of the Book of Revelation, and will tell with all confidence they failed. They advertise sermons that deal with the spectacular and draw audiences upon the strength of their imagination. They are willing to interpret and prophesy and when their interpretations fail and their prophesies go awry, instead of realizing they are wrong, they hang their head for a little while and then work out a new theory and preach it with all the vigor and gusto of the old. The amazing thing about all of this is that men and women are always ready to follow such idle dreamers. No matter how many times they are proven wrong, the gullible crowds never tire of supporting their opinions. They are led like sheep by every Pied Piper who possesses a good personality.
Their field of speculation is as varied as the men themselves. They are ready at the drop of the hat to tell you anything, from when a war will come to a close, to why all other preachers have failed, and to prove it all by the Bible. Let us examine their history.
In the days of the New Testament, speculation was prevalent in regard to the second coming of Christ. The early disciples would give ear to anyone who wanted to teach on this important subject. The Apostles warned the early church against men who wanted to guess the time of Christ's second coming. They taught clearly that no man knew the time of the second coming of the Lord. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, Paul gives this instruction: "But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night." And yet in spite of this warning men and women were not only willing to hear the guess work of early preachers, but sadder still, to believe some of their idle talk. This picture is painted by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:16-19: "But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor."
We are not told whether the two preachers were sincere in their speculation, but Paul clearly states that such talk is vain and profane babbling. Not only does he tell them this, but also that their word eats as does a canker. These men were walking by their opinion. Preaching their theories instead of the plain and simple gospel of Jesus Christ, guessing on the meaning of the scripture and building their own house of theory and insisting that all come in and dwell with them.
We would think that in the fact of the failure experienced in the days of the New Testament and the warnings against speculation, that men of latter days, of our time, would be content to remain withinthose things plainly revealed. Such, indeed, is not the case. We have experienced the folly of speculation over and over again. Men have guessed at the very thing the apostles condemned, the folly of speculating over, when Christ would come again.
Back in 1899 a leader among the Russians created quite a stir with his prediction. He believed that Christ would come at the turn of the century. That is just as 1899 went out and 1900 came in. Of course he taught it would be at the midnight hour, although the scripture nowhere says it will be at midnight. The leadership of this so-called prophesy gave him wide publicity, but his followers were doomed to disappointment. Only the boom of fire crackers and the ringing of bells greeted the new year.
In our own country before this time, a man named William Miller created a sensation with the prediction that the Lord would return to earth in October, 1843. His followers made white robes, left their crops in the fields, and climbed to the top of houses to meet him in the air. A thunder shower, history tells us, found them in this condition and they discovered to their sorrow that Miller's doctrine was all wet. William Miller looked at his charts again and said he made a mistake in addition and set the time one year later. Of course his theory did not improve with age and when the Lord failed to come, it was the last of Miller, but not the last of speculation. He made a feeble attempt the following year but his cause was lost.
Among the disciples of Miller was a woman named Ellen G. White. It is reported that she tried to usher in a second advent in 1843 and in the two following years. When Miller failed she took up his work. She is credited with predictions for the years 1857, 1863, 1877, and 1896. History, of course, has proven this guess work vain, and profane babbling. Prophets who have missed their predictions so many times can not be prophets of God.
But perhaps as powerful a figure as we have seen in the field of date-setting was Pastor Russell. Russell claimed an exalted knowledge of prophesy. He said that the Lord must return in person and set up his kingdom on the earth and exercise His great power before the end of 1914. When his prophesy failed he concocted an unbelievable explanation. He said that Christ was here but that we just could not see Him. Hence he had Christ reigning on the visible earth in invisible form, all proving the folly of speculation.
Time will, and has, refuted all of these speculations and the date setters responsible for them. Christ settled the matter of the time of His coming in Matt. 24:36, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." And again in Matthew 24:42-44 it says,"Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
The failures on the part of these men, and others, to guess the times of the second coming of Christ put an end to date setting, but in no way did it thwart the speculation on the millennium or the thousand year reign of Christ upon the earth. Men continued their guess work on the earthly reign of Christ without setting a date for its beginning.It never occurred to them that the earthly reign of Christ has no better foundation than the date for the coming of the Lord. It is entirely without Bible foundation and is the rankest form of speculation and eats as does a canker. Christ told Pilate in the 18th chapter of John, verse 36, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."Now it seems that this ought to be clear and settle the matter for all time. Christ declares his Kingdom not to be of this world. The Bible condemns speculation. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. That should end the matter, but it does not. Thousands of preachers in the last twenty years have bought their tickets on the wagon of speculation and sat down for what has proven a rough ride. This group is known today as Fundamentalists. As a matter of fact, the religious world today is pretty well divided into two groups, the Modernist and the Fundamentalist.
The Modernists deny the essentials of the Bible. They deny the basic principles of Christianity. For example, they deny that Christ was born of a virgin, and they explain the supernatural in the Bible in the light of human power in order to set at naught the miracles of Christ. They cannot believe the resurrection of Christ from the dead. This reduces religion to a school of philosophy, or simply a set of principles without any power of God. They take the divinity away from Christ and the inspiration away from the Bible.
Now, to meet this group, and certainly such a heresy needs to be met and defeated. Men who believed in these things, the virgin birth, the miracles, the resurrection of Christ, and the inspiration of the Bible as the word of God, became known as Fundamentalists. If the matter had ended here then certainly all Christians should be Fundamentalists, for they believe in these essential principles and facts upon which the Christian religion is based. But the man who calls himself a Fundamentalist was not content to stop with a firm faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, for the great majority of them had to launch their crafts on the disasterous .sea of speculation. They taught that Christ was to return to the earh and set up a kingdom with Jerusalem as his capital. Although they did not set the year for the return of Christ, they established the time as in the days of the Roman Empire, or in the day of a powerful Italy. They taught that the Roman Empire would have to be restored to the glory Of the Caesars before Christ could come. When Italy under Mussolini began her aggressive policy of domination, they were jubilant, and declared that the scripture was being fulfilled and that the Italian Empire was in the process of being restored and that surely Christ was almost ready to come to earth. Thousands of preachers preached this and hundreds of thousands believed it. When the Axis was formed and Italy cast her feeble forces with the black might of the man of Berlin, it did not phase them in the least. Right or wrong, it was the work of God and the glory of the Caesars was to be restored that Christ may come. In the early days of the war when the cruel forces of oppression were conquering and subduing the small countries of Europe, it was the fulfillment of scriptures. The Empire of the City of Seven Hills was on the march. This was the golden age of all millennial preaching, and in their words, it could not fail. We can interpret Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 and this is the beginning of the circumstances that will usher in the thousand year reign, and the picture changes. Italy begins to lose, and Rome shatters all dreams for a Roman Empire. Her armies are beaten, her empire is gone, her country is a battle field, and then she surrenders. Twenty years of preaching wasted. Hours spent in the pulpit on the restoration of Axis Italy gone for naught and the ship of speculation wrecked again on the reefs of historical untruth. Think of it, an entire group of preachers will have to change their teaching because, instead of preaching the gospel of God and knowing nothing save Christ and Him crucified, they had to set sail on the sea of speculation. All of the theories of this world will not save a single soul from Hell. They will confuse and muddle the minds of men until all lose faith in the things of God.
But someone will want to know, how they are going to patch up this error, what they will do now to restore the faith of the people in their work. The answer is simple and clear. Instead of abandoning the ship of specultaion and preaching Christ and Him crucified, they make another guess. They have little choice, and therefore the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 becomes Russia. Instead of telling men and women what to do to be a child of God and how we are to live to enter that city built above, we heard of the virtue of the great Soviet Republic and how she is fulfilling scripture. In direct contradiction to the words of the Saviour, "My kingdom is not of this earth," they have moved the earthly kingdom of Christ forward and waited for Russia as they did for Rome.
Peter was given the keys of the kingdom in Matthew, chapter 16, and he used them to open the door of the church on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ from the dead. This is recorded in the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles. If the church and the kingdom are not the same thing, then Peter is guilty of taking the keys of one institution to open the doors of another. The fact that the keys of the kingdom would open the door of the church ought to prove their oneness. John was already in the kingdom when he penned the Book of Revelation and declared it in Rev.1:9. Christ said in Mark 9:1, "Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God come with power." This should be plain. Unless the kingdom came in the life time of these spoken of, the word of Christ has failed. John the Baptizer preached that the kingdom is at hand, and all know that that means "near." (Matt. 3:2). Christ preached that the kingdom was at hand, and that men and women should repent in preparation for it. Matt. 4:17 says, "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The lesson is as clear as the noon day sun.
The church and the kingdom are spoken of as one and the same thing. When Christ established His church, He set up His kingdom. It is not an earthly kingdom but a spiritual one. Christ said My kingdom is not of earthly nature. The apostles begged all men to be members of the kingdom of Christ and taught that men must believe, Heb. 11: 6, "But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Then in Acts 2:8 we are told to repent,"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." We are told next to be baptized: Mark 16:16, "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned." This made men and women members of the kingdom that could not be moved and over which Christ rules as king of kings on the spiritual throne in heaven.
I want to challenge all of you in the listening audience this morning, all of you with an open mind and an open Bible to examine these things and part company with him who makes speculation his business and guess work his creed. Foy E. Wallace, Jr, made this plea: "To give up the doctrine of the earthly reign of Christ that is rank materialism. It is not conducive in any of its phases to true Christianity. The men who teach it have to change their theories with the rise and fall of nations. It pictures Christ, our captain and conquerer, who prayed for his enemies on the cross, returning to slay them with the blood red sword of the carnage of war, and to rule them with a rod of iron. The emperors of this earth have sought universal dominion by slaying with mighty armies their enemies. Christ conquered by permitting himself to be slain by his enemies. The doctrine of the earthly reign of Christ, is altogether incompatible with the ideals of his life, the essence of his teaching, and the purpose of his death. It cannot be true. Let us all go back to the Bible, speaking where the Bible speaks, and to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
May we all be willing to submit to the gospel of Jesus Christ and not the doctines of men.
This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"