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Sign of the Times: An Interview with John MacArthur and Phil Johnson

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
February 19, 2024 3:00 am

Sign of the Times: An Interview with John MacArthur and Phil Johnson

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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February 19, 2024 3:00 am

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Hi, friend.

Phil Johnson here. Welcome to a special edition of Grace To You with John MacArthur. I'm here in the studio with John, and we're taking a break from our regular verse-by-verse teaching format today and tomorrow to talk about some of the biggest issues and ominous trends in our society, and where the Church fits into all of that, and how God's people need to think about and respond to the growing spiritual problems in the world. Now, obviously, there have been significant changes in the culture. Just in the course of your lifetime, John, so many conveniences have been developed, and there have been so many technological advances, and a lot of these changes have been for the better. But if you look at the moral quality of life in the West, you'd have to say that it's degenerating, and it seems to be degenerating quickly. Does it seem to you that the pace of our moral decline has accelerated dramatically in the past half decade?

Well, yeah. I think if you just take sort of a broad view of history, you talk about something like the Reformation. Prior to that, there's a thousand years of the Roman Catholic Church dominating. The Reformation comes, and it's epic, and it goes for, I think, well, even until today. But it wasn't long after that until humanism comes in. But those were always years. I mean, it could be many years, decades. Now, you can have trends in weeks or months because of the massive, massive exposure to everything in the world through media.

That's right. You were born into the modernist world, and now we live in a postmodern world. What's changed there? Well, I think what's changed is the modern world could be defined as the effort to find the truth. The modernists believed there was truth. It really came out of the Enlightenment. It came out of the Reformation because the Dark Ages were basically the Roman Catholic Church in the Western world had locked everything down. You couldn't read the Bible.

It was in Latin, and there was just a lot of ignorance, and they wanted it that way. When the Enlightenment and the Reformation came, there was a new individuality. It wasn't all pure.

Obviously, no reaction is. But the idea was, we're going to find the truth. We're not going to wait until some monolithic organization tells us what is true and what is not. So I think what defined modernism was, there is truth, and we need to find it. What defines postmodernism is there's no absolute truth, and you can create your own.

Right. Modernism was bad for the Church, actually, because it wasn't just the idea that there's truth and we need to find it. But by the late 1800s, most of our culture had accepted the idea that science is the ultimate arbiter of truth and that it's more authoritative even than Scripture. And so the effect of that modernist few decades was the destruction of most of the major denominations and lots of churches. Well, I think if you understand the big picture of the Church being basically the disseminator of truth, and the Church, the false Church, can't bring real salvation. It can't bring peace and fulfillment in people's lives.

So it's all external. And eventually, it's so dominated people's lives that they wanted to get out from under it. I mean, just imagine being told to conform to certain moral standards without any transformation of your heart. So you're fighting against this system.

Eventually, you're going to burst out of that. And so when I say that modernism was the search for truth, it was the search for truth apart from the Church. It was as if they buried theology.

And they had to find it. I mean, we used to talk about theology as the queen of the sciences. But they dumped theology for science because, well, science was godless.

It was amoral. So I think what characterized modernism was a search for the truth apart from God. And, of course, that's what Scripture teaches is the fatal flaw in humanity. As fallen creatures, we suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Romans 1, and the Old Testament says the fool has said in his heart there is no God. But, yeah, we know the cycle of human history is to suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness. And what that means is the suppression comes because they demand to live in an unrighteous way. Would you agree, though, that this has accelerated exponentially in the past five years? Well, of course, it's accelerated because it's been exposed in such massive, massive ways through media. I mean, you go back 100 years and you wouldn't have an epidemic of pornography because where would that come from? Certainly the culture wouldn't have done that.

There was no medium to do it. And now you have it on cell phones in the hands of eight-year-old kids. Yeah, sure. The blast of sin that comes through media at the high-tech level with not only the seductive element of sin itself, but the very seductive formats that create habits and habits that can't be broken just fuels this explosion of immorality. So you're hinting, really, that underlying this rapid acceleration of moral decline, the Internet would be probably the prime cause. Yeah, of course. I mean, because that's the power to get into everybody's personal life in a secret, almost private, clandestine way.

Sure. It's interesting, isn't it, that of all the sins Scripture points out, so many of the changes that we've seen in our culture over the past – over our lifetimes – has to do with the acceptance of things that used to be regarded as sexual perversions. You have radical feminism, I think, at the root of it, but then the whole LGBTQRSTU ideology, and transgenderism with an infinite array of new pronouns, things like drag queen story time for children. And next up is pedophilia. We're being told that, you know, pedophilia is – that word is a slur, and so we should refer to people as minor, attracted persons. And so it's on the same course for social acceptance that we saw with all the other LGBTQ stuff. And pedophilia and bestiality are both lobbying now to be accepted as congenital dispositions, like orientations. So you were born that way, there's nothing you can do, and we're supposed to accept that.

Well, yeah, but what else would you expect? Because humanity is evil, and the Bible says evil men get worse and worse. And then when you inject any form of media, any form of media, you literally expand exponentially the impact of all that is evil. I mean, look, we understand that from the standpoint of our ministry, we want to spread the truth far and wide, the truth of the Word of God, which is what we do using the same tools that the enemy uses to destroy people's lives.

But the fact that this particular time in human history has such massive overexposure should lead us to conclude that it's going to be the worst time ever. Would you have predicted, say, 50 years ago that the biggest obstacle for the church in wanting to disseminate the truth, the biggest obstacle would be government? Well, I think, you know, if I had thought about it 50 years ago, I don't know how much I would have thought about it, but government has always been the arch persecutor of the church. You have to understand that you might not like somebody who's a Christian, but you can't kill them, but the government can. So, ultimately, it's always the government that wields the most threatening power against the truth and against the church.

I mean, that's true in all of history. You go back into the Middle Ages, and it was governments that were turning people into martyrs, and a lot of it was coming from religion united to government. So it's always going to be the government to do that, because they have the power to do that, the authority to do that.

And now we've got anti-religious governments that are persecutors. This pressure to accept sexual perversions as normative is soon to become, I think, the law of the land. Already in Canada, they've passed a law that makes it illegal to say that homosexuality is sinful. Yeah, and I mean, I don't know what trajectory they're on at what speed, but now they passed laws on euthanasia, that if you want to die, you go to the doctor and he kills you. And that's legal.

That's also legal in several European countries. That does seem to be coming this way. That's another threat, I think. Well, yeah, the devil is the murderer from the beginning. And as society unravels, you can see people killing themselves at a more rapid rate than ever in my lifetime in the past.

And if you don't want to kill yourself, you can have somebody kill you. I mean, that's where we are. But that shows the utter despair. You might think that in a world with all the advancements that we have today, with all of the fulfillments, with all of the forms of entertainment and all the options you have to, you know, enrich your life every way you want, people would be more satisfied. But the truth of the matter is they're less satisfied. And I think it's because the accumulated power of sin and its dominating presence has overruled every other meaningful thing. People don't know how to have a meaningful relationship. They don't know how to love genuinely.

They don't know how to build a marriage, to build a family, even to build human relationships. I mean, look, here we are at this time in human history, and we're all worried that somebody's going to push a button and set off an atomic bomb in America or in Russia or wherever, Iran. And then all of a sudden the whole world blows up. We are seeing, I think, as much or more hate on a broader level than I can ever remember in my lifetime. Right. And in fact, I made a comment online just a few days ago that it's ironic that after so much rhetoric on social justice, the overall effect of that has been to increase ethnic strife and contention. Yeah, I think that was the purpose of it.

I mean, it was given a label that sounded somewhat benign. But what I'm saying is that it's obvious that with all the history of life and humanity and all the advancements and all the opportunities and life being so much more livable than it ever was in the past, and it gets more and more that way. You can have more of what you want.

There's no settling the human heart. I mean, we're headed toward what looks like a global war. And that's exactly what the Bible says will happen in Armageddon. And it's interesting to me that the focal point of this is Israel. Why is that? I mean, you wouldn't if you didn't have the Bible, you'd say, why is everybody focused on this tiny little country with this few million people?

Why is it the center of the globe? But it is increasingly. And there's increasing hatred spreading globally against Israel. And we're watching it foment everywhere. So that's I mean, it's all going down the path that the Bible talks about. Yeah.

And that's that's hard to miss, isn't it? Everywhere I go, people ask and I'm sure they ask you even more, do you think the current events with all the strife in the Middle East and and everything else that's going on signal that the return of Christ is near? People ask me that all the time. What's your answer to that? Well, I would say this.

There's nothing that is supposed to happen around the time of Christ's return that I can't now see as a very imminent possibility. I mean, it takes something like the mark of the beast and number and your forehead and in your hand. Yeah.

And we used to wonder how that would be. Right. But talking about implanting ships, they're already doing it in your hand or on your forehead. Yeah, that's actually what they're doing in China.

Yeah, you can shut down somebody's entire life. So, yeah, I think I don't want to say everything is a prophetic fulfillment. But in general, we're looking at a world that is shaping up consistently with what the Bible says the the time of the tribulation is going to bring to pass.

Yeah. Don't you think also, though, from the New Testament, the apostles lived with that expectation that Christ could and probably would return at any time? And yet it's been 2000 years. And Peter acknowledges that that the time would come when people would say, where is the promise of his coming? And he makes the point that the delay is because of the patience and kindness of God, who is just in the process of redeeming people before the great judgment comes.

Yeah. And that's not going to that's not going to come until he has completed the church, until I guess you could say the times of the Gentiles are complete, until the church is completely gathered. Then it'll be taken to glory in the rapture and then all hell will break loose. And all I'm saying and looking into the realities of today is what I see happening today could could readily happen in a tribulation. I mean, if you say, you know, you go back 50 or 100 years and say you're reading the Book of Revelation, you hear that a third of the human race is killed or a fourth of the human race is killed. How would that happen? How would that be possible? But we now know how that is possible with the nuclear power that we we have now, which in previous history we didn't have. So I think there's lots of things that line up. We also have Israel in the land.

I mean, what a story that is there. Nobody's ever met a Hittite, a Hivite, an Amorite, a Moabite or Jebusite or anybody else like any other. But but Israelites are are on the face of the earth in their land. And that is a fulfillment of God's purpose, that he would bring them back and then he would redeem them and then he would give them their kingdom. So considering all of that and watching the decline of our society, we'll say, even so, Lord, come quickly.

And the point I get out of all of this is that we shouldn't be troubled. Scripture predicted that the world would go this way. And Jesus said, don't be surprised if the world hates you.

They hated me. All of that is told to us in Scripture. I think one of the more disturbing things that's happening today and I think what maybe I'm more concerned about than anything is the fact that within the visible church, within the evangelical movement, there is that same pressure, that same effort to try to mainstream some of these sexual perversions and embrace some of the same sins that the world is so obsessed with. You share that concern. Well, yeah, but that isn't a surprise either.

There's no surprise there at all. In fact, I go back to Matthew 13 in my thinking and have for decades and realize that the Lord says to the disciples, there's going to be wheat and there's going to be tares. And the wheat is the seed that God sows and the tares are sown by the evil one. The kingdom is going to be mixed. There are going to be false converts. There's going to be, like on the parable of the soils, some seed produces fruit, some appears to look like it has life, but it dies out. So there's going to be fake, faulty, short-lived pseudo-Christians.

We have all of that. There are going to be false teachers. Is there anything that the New Testament talks more about in terms of warning than false teachers? I mean, it's everywhere throughout the New Testament. From the beginning to the end, false teachers, even false Christs are going to be coming. So it all is exactly the way the Bible says. The church is, the true church is in the midst of this kingdom that is a mixture of the true and the false, the wheat and the tares. The parable of the dragnet in Matthew 13 where the Lord talks about a net that brings in everything.

I mean, good fish, bad fish, and whatever trash is on the bottom of the lake. And the Lord says this is the way the kingdom is going to be. In fact, it's so difficult to tell the difference that in those parables the Lord said you can't always tell the difference. You have to wait until the harvest and He says when the reaping will be done by the holy angels. And He is, God is reserving the final, I guess you could say the final revelation of what people are for that final judgment. And I think that fits Matthew 7.

Some are going to say, wait a minute, you know, we did this in your name, we did the other thing in your name, and He says, depart from me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity. So there is such a mixture and it's so often imperceptible that we can't even distinguish it, which is challenging, right, for the church because we know there are non-believers in the church. We know there are false teachers in the church, we know some of them, we know who some of them are and many of them are, but we don't know all of them.

But that just fits the picture perfectly. Yeah, let's talk about that admonition from Christ not to try to clear out the tears, okay? That doesn't mean that we shouldn't acknowledge the fact that there are tears, there are false teachers, and sometimes they are identifiable and should be called out, would you agree?

Well, absolutely. I mean, you start with this, if there's a professing believer in the church who is sinning, you go to that believer and you confront that believer and hopefully that believer repents. If not, you take two or three witnesses and go through the same process. If not, you tell the whole church.

If not, you treat them like an unbeliever. So there is a process going on, we call it the discipline of the church, that will reveal people who are fraudulent. If the church is unwilling to do that, then it is subject to all manner of evil. I mean, the Lord wanted that stopped at the point of an individual following a pattern of sin. The first instruction ever given to the church was if someone's in sin, go to him and confront that sin. And obviously, if you're going to do that, you've got to be sure that your own life is what it should be.

You don't want to be taking a splinter out of somebody else's eye. Jesus said, well, you've got a big two by four in your own eye. But the holiness of God's people is his desire. I mean, Paul even says that he wants to present to Christ a pure virgin. So, yes, I'm convinced, and I was convinced when I came to grace 54 years ago, that we needed to follow the patterns of Matthew 18 and confront sin in the church on a personal level. People told me, you know, you'll empty the church.

You can't do that. I never heard of a church doing it. Never.

I didn't know any. And I grew up in church world. But I said, but the scripture is clear about that. So, yeah, I think that if you don't do that in the church, you disobey the Lord. I mean, you're letting sin find a place there.

You know, this is where leaven, you know, leavens the whole lump and you have to confront it. First Corinthians, Paul talks about that. You have to deal with that person and put them out of the church.

Otherwise, they're going to have an evil influence. And we're going to pause right there. You're listening to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson, and today John has taken a break from his normal verse-by-verse study of the Bible to discuss some of the troubling signs of the times that we're seeing in the world today. You know, John, the violence and atrocities that we've seen in Israel since last October, that has brought fresh attention to a book you wrote years ago in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. It does have a renewed relevance today. Well, it absolutely does, Phil, because it's basically the same hostile terrorist mentality that has created this really amazing drama in the land of Israel. And I feel like we had a break from 2001 until now.

There wasn't anything like the 9-11 event until this one. So, you know, that's 20 years of kind of thinking maybe this is going to calm down, but the fact of the matter is the cultural landscape is changing so rapidly. Islam is spreading across the world at such a speedy rate, and they're basically now seeing the fruit of indoctrinating little children, five-year-old kids, training them to be terrorists at the age of five.

So, you know, it's going to go from bad to worse and from worse to even worse. So the Bible is clear about wars and rumors of wars, and of course, in the end, everything focuses on the Middle East. Everything is going to focus on that little piece of land that we know as the land of Israel and the Jewish people, because that's what the Bible tells us is going to happen. I think there are so many people confused about this that we want to do what we can to help people understand what really is happening and what is going on. And so back after the 9-11 event, I wrote a book called Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible. And I remember I wrote that book sort of off of a message I preached the Sunday after 9-11.

And I then found myself on CNN with Larry King kind of discussing these things, and they were so fresh then. And nothing could be more appropriate for the very thing we're seeing today than to go back to what we know historically about terrorism and jihad, more importantly, what we know about the Bible. And there's a chapter in the book titled Where Was God on September 11. The chapter could be retitled Where Was God on October 7.

The biblical principles apply to atrocities like the attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023, and frankly to any similar violence that has happened before then and since then, and not just in Israel. Also included in the book is a detailed chapter that gives a biblical perspective on war, how we are to understand it, and how God views war. And perhaps the most important chapter of all is one titled Is There Hope? We need to know that there is hope in the wake of atrocities like war. We need to know that this is all scheduled in the Bible.

God lays out what's going to happen. And more importantly, we need to know that there is real, lasting, eternal hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. We'd love for you to get a copy of Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible today, affordably priced. You can order it from Grace to You.

That's right. And friend, if you know someone struggling to understand where God was on September 11 or October 7 or whenever tragedy strikes, the book Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible can help answer those questions in a clear biblical way. Order your copy when you contact us today. You can call us at 800-55-GRACE during normal business hours, 730 to 4 o'clock Pacific time.

That number again, 800-55-GRACE. Or you can purchase the book from our website, Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible costs $10 and shipping is free. Again, to order Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible, call 800-55-GRACE or go to

That's our website, When you visit there, you'll find thousands of free Bible study resources. That includes blog articles from John and our staff. And in particular, look for a series of blog articles titled, Can Truth Survive in a Postmodern Society? It's a helpful complement to what John discussed on today's program. You'll also find daily devotionals and more than 3,600 sermons from John's 55 years of verse-by-verse Bible teaching. All of it free to download in MP3 and transcript format.

To take advantage of these free resources, visit our website, Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Thank you for starting your week here with us and be back tomorrow as we continue the timely discussion that we've titled, Signs of the Times. Invite a friend to tune in for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-19 05:36:34 / 2024-02-19 05:46:40 / 10

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