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Facing the Future

By Rev. James Gracie

This Editorial was published in the Presbyterian Standard, No. 35, July-September 2004.

CHRISTIANS who study their Bibles prayerfully and diligently have differing opinions on the course which the world will take between Christ's first and second comings. Even those things which have already happened are subject to conflicting interpretations! Believers are especially keen of course to know how matters will develop from the present time until that day when our Lord is "revealed from heaven with his mighty angels" (2Thess.1:7) and everything is brought to an end. Will the Lord revive His work or not? Will His cause prosper or will it suffer?

Attitudes to Avoid

Whichever view is held there are certain extremes which ought to be avoided in our general outlook upon the future. For one, our attitude should not be characterised by a defeatist type of pessimism. No man who knows Jesus Christ to be the "King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev.19:16) and the "heir of all things" (Heb.1:2) ought to be a pessimist regarding the outcome of this world's history! Neither though should we have a complacent sort of optimism. The hope of the church is one which is tempered by the knowledge that "the whole world lieth in wickedness" (1John 5:19) and that therefore it is necessary that we "fight the good fight of faith" (1Tim.6:12) if we are to see any advance of the kingdom of God.

We should also avoid a dogmatism about eschatological details. Christ said to the disciples before He was taken up into heaven, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7)? The ascended Saviour has shown to His servants "things which must shortly come to pass" (Rev.1:1) but He has not told us exactly how or when they will come to pass. Jesus says emphatically that the time of His own return "knoweth no man" (Matt.24:36). At the same time we should be careful of an indifferentism about anything beyond the immediate moment. Jesus once rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for their failure to discern "the signs of the times" (Matt.16:3) and that to which they were pointing.

What is the wise position for us to adopt? It is doubtless along the following lines. On the one hand we ought to be convinced that by the grace of God through the preaching of the gospel the various kingdoms of this world will eventually become "the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" (Rev.11:15). On the other hand we ought to be aware that in those realms where gospel light has shone brightly in the past and has now grown dim the Lord Jesus will surely fulfil the threat which He once made to the church at Ephesus to "remove thy candlestick out of his place" unless there is serious repentance (Rev.2:5).


Sadly one such declining realm is the United Kingdom. Over the centuries since the Reformation our civilisation has been leavened by the gospel of Christ. Its major institutions – the monarchy, parliament, the judiciary and so on – have acknowledged the wisdom of the Word of God and the superiority of the Christian ethic. Now however, although these institutions appear outwardly the same, it is a quite different spirit which activates much of their life.

This is to say nothing yet of the most important institution in our land – the church of Jesus Christ. Without her good influence the various organs of state will tend only to serve the ends of Satan and not the cause of God. It is from the church that a healthful, guiding light should radiate throughout society for in her witness she is to be "holding forth the word of life" (Phil.2:16). But now the light that was once in the church has been replaced by spiritual darkness. Crucially it was from within the church that there arose a denial of the trustworthiness of Scripture. The result was that the "leaven of malice and wickedness" (1Cor.5:8) replaced the leaven of grace. This poison is now rapidly permeating the life of the nation.

What does the future hold for us? What are the signs of our times? It would appear that our immediate prospects as a nation are bleak indeed. Before a storm actually breaks dark clouds gather in the sky: there seem to be many such clouds on our horizon. Let us identify some of the looming threats to our remaining Christian heritage.


Secularism is the philosophy that the great activities of public life are to be conducted independently of religion. It is said that belief in God is a purely personal matter and therefore belongs to our private lives only. Matters such as politics, law, education and science are thought to be outside the scope of what is proper to religion. This philosophy has now advanced to such an extent that it is suggested, not only that these activities may be undertaken apart from the teaching of the Bible but that they must be: the Christian voice is no longer to be raised in the public arena.

The evil consequences of this approach to civilisation are becoming all-too-apparent. They are seen particularly in attitudes towards life and death. The sanctity of life, whether it be infant life in the womb, aged life in the hospital ward or anything in between, is disregarded. For all the talk of politicians and other professional 'do-gooders' about creating a 'compassionate' and 'caring' society the reality is that today life is increasingly only deemed to have value if it is judged by the 'experts' to have quality in itself or utility to others. Otherwise it is expendable. Gone is the security which derives from the divine declaration, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Gen.9:6).


Pluralism is the philosophy which acknowledges many different principles of being and ways of living. Pluralism is not new of course. It has been in the world ever since our first parents shut their ears to God and listened to the devil, eating the forbidden fruit in a foolish desire to be wise. What is new is the idea that pluralism is a good and enriching thing and something to be encouraged as much as possible. This is clearly the aim in government legislation and every branch of state education.

The fact that this should be so illustrates the madness which descends upon any society which abandons the teaching of Scripture. When absolute truth is rejected the outcome must be some form of relativism: what is true or false, good or evil, varies relative to the individual and relative to time. Morality is decided by each individual according to his own conscience and by each generation according to its own interest.

One aspect of pluralism which has been vigorously promoted is multiculturalism. No-one will object to a variety in language, dress, food and other customs, for these things add a certain spice to life. But when it is remembered that the dominating and controlling influence on any culture is its religion then anyone who has a proper regard for Jesus Christ and His exclusive claims as Saviour and Lord cannot be comfortable with the multicultural idea. History is the record of conflict between the great cultures of the world which, by virtue of the fact that each has a different religious philosophy at its heart, can never be at peace with each another.

To speak against a false religion like Islam is deemed to be the equivalent of expressing hatred for the followers of that religion. The same goes for any criticism of the sin of Sodom. Cannot the foolish men and women who govern our country see that to warn those who are on a wrong path of the error of their way is not an act of hatred but its very opposite?! If they were not so ignorant of the Bible or prejudiced against the Christian faith they would realise that the Lord Jesus Christ who Himself condemned every false way also commanded His disciples, "Love your enemies..." (Matt.5:44).


We must mention one further threat to the Christian character of our land. To say that Romanism is a threat to us will surprise and even offend many. After all, is not the Church of Rome, constant and dependable as she is in her dogma, a great bulwark against the moral and spiritual changes we see all around us?

Let us be very careful! The 'conservatism' of Rome does not proceed from a hearty commitment to that Word which is "true from the beginning" and "endureth for ever" (Psa.119:160) but from her carnal ambition. Her agenda is more political than spiritual and should the circumstances require it she would adopt a more liberal attitude to many things. The genius of Rome is that it is able to harness the trends of pluralism and even secularism and to direct them to her own ends.

Britain sadly has chosen new gods. The people seem likely to enthrone Antichrist rather than Christ. There is but one remedy for our backslidden land. There must be a return to a belief in the supreme authority of Holy Scripture and to a culture which is fully in sympathy with it. May God grant it.