WILL THE CHURCH RETIRE AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT?
"I must work the works of him that has sent me while it is day. The night is coming when NO MAN CAN WORK" (John 9:4).
What did Jesus mean when He said, "The night is coming when no man can work"? Is it possible that the "night" in the above passage is symbolic for the "midnight hour" or Great Tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24-25? And did Jesus actually mean that all physical work would cease or was He referring to spiritual labor such as evangelism and ministry to unbelievers?
Perhaps you've already solved these questions. I trust that most of us are able to easily perceive the correlation between the "night" of John 9:4 and the "midnight hour" of Matthew 25. And therefore we realize that the night in which no man can work is a reference to the Great Tribulation and the conclusion of all spiritual labor on behalf of the lost. Yet there are many Christians who have never actually paused to consider the implications of what this means. In other words, all evangelism, missionary activity, and ministry outreach to unbelievers will soon end once we enter the Great Tribulation.
To further confirm this point, we must consider the parable of the ten virgins located in Matthew 25. In this parable, half of the virgins are wise and half are foolish. Obviously, these virgins are symbolic for the Church, comprised of wise Christians and foolish ones too. The wise had enough oil in their lamps, while the foolish did not. When a cry sounded at the "midnight hour" all ten virgins prepared for the Bridegroom's return: "And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him". The Bridegroom, of course, is Jesus and this parable speaks of His return for His Church.
But because the age of grace had ended and God's judgement had now begun, the foolish were too late in remedying their inadequate spiritual condition symbolized by their lack of oil (God's Spirit presence). Had they had what they needed prior to the midnight hour, they would have been fine, but they didn't. Consequently, they were turned away at the door: "Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13).
This example parallels the days leading up to Noah's flood. Noah and his family warned their contemporaries of the coming flood. But notice that the rain didn't start until after the doors of the ark were firmly shut. Once the rain started, it was too late to get in. Those who had remorse about ignoring Noah's warning were still permanently barred from the ark of salvation. Jesus warned of this when comparing the days leading up to His return to Noah's time:
"But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be" (Mat. 24:37-39).
NONE OF THE WICKED WILL REPENT
Both Daniel and Revelation indicate that NONE of the wicked will repent once the Tribulation begins:
"Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10).
"And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts" (Rev 9:20-21).
"And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds" (Rev 16:9-11).
SATAN WILL PREVAIL AGAINST THE SAINTS FOR A SHORT SEASON
During the Tribulation, satan will successfully extinguish the Church's influence and power over secular society. While the Church's influence grew and spread globally throughout the past 2,000 years, just as prophesied (Mat. 13:33), the Great Tribulation is a period in which that influence ceases and antichrist prevails. Notice:
"I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them" (Dan. 7:21).
"...it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished. ...Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:7).
"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations" (Rev. 13:7).
"SEEK YE THE LORD WHILE HE MAY BE FOUND"
"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near" (Is. 55:6).
This verse implies that there is coming a time in which sinners will no longer be able to make peace with God. And it would seem that that time is awful near.
THE "RESTRAINER" WILL BE REMOVED
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [Christ's return] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition... For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now restraineth be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming" (2 Thes 2:3-8).
Christians are often confused about the identity of the "restrainer" in the above verses and the reason for why he is removed. The only viable explanation is that the "he" refers to the Holy Spirit being removed from the earth during the Tribulation period.
Few realize that the Holy Spirit has two main functions, one meant for the world and the other for the Church. To the Christian, the Holy Spirit is power (Luk. 24:49; Act. 1:8), comfort (Jn. 14:16), a Teacher (Jn. 14:26), and a Guide (Jn. 16:13). These attributes of the Holy Spirit will never cease till Christians meet Jesus at His return. In other words, God's Spirit presence will abide with His Church forever.
Now while the Spirit's role in the Church is permanent, His role in the world is temporary, but affects every human being. At least for now, the Spirit is responsible for the universal knowledge of sin, righteousness, and judgement (Jn. 16:8). This means that He is currently keeping sinners and sin in check. But this function will no longer be necessary if God's grace and salvation expire once the Tribulation begins. That's why the tribulation period is known as the midnight hour, midnight being the darkest hour of the night. Truly, humanity will be plunged into unthinkable darkness once the restraining presence of God's Spirit is lifted from mankind and satan's influence is allowed to prevail unchecked (Dan. 7:21; Rev. 13:7). Such darkness has never been witnessed before, nor will it ever be seen again, thank God!
A TIME TO HIDE
"Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain" (Isa 26:19-21).
Once the Great Tribulation is here several things will be true. The Holy Spirit will no longer serve as the Restrainer. Mankind will descend into horrific spiritual darkness because sin will go unchecked. God's grace and salvation will no longer be available to unbelievers and therefore all evangelism and ministry outreach will effectively end.
So what's left for the Church to do during this exceptionally dark period? The answer is very simple. We should prepare to hide, as evident in the above passages.
Many of us have been taught to believe that the Great Tribulation will usher in an era filled with dynamic evangelism and revival. We have been lead to expect that the function of the Spirit in bringing men to repentance and sin conviction will continue until the Second Coming. However, as demonstrated in this study, such will not be the case. There is coming a time in which we will need to retire from evangelism and ministry in order to go into hiding. That season will become much more obvious once the antichrist ascends to global power.
Finally, this teaching should compel us to make every effort to complete the work of evangelism and carry out our ministry giftings right NOW, while the Holy Spirit is still here to help us. Let us remember that the harvest is ready, but the workers are few (Mat 9:37). And indeed, this is the time to get busy for Christ or repent if we haven't been faithful to God's call thus far.