We dedicate this special issue in consideration of the many latter day Bible prophecies that appear to apply specifically to this final generation of believers. We are living in the last days; these are perilous times and scoffers are questioning the interpretation of the time periods and the promise of Christ's second coming. Current conditions are very much like the days of Noah and Lot; Christendom is far astray, and even in the household the Master's question has never been more timely. "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)
Pray always and do not lose heart. In the Luke 18 parable, there has been much discussion centered on the word faith. Shall he find THE faith? Or, shall he find real belief?
The parable actually begins with these words. "Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart." (Luke 18:1 NRSV) A close review of this parable, keeping this clearly stated purpose in mind, will help us to understand and appreciate the use of the word faith.
The parable centers on a poor widow who cries continually unto an unjust judge, seeking vengeance against her adversary. Her persistence works and he declares, "Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me." The Lord then tells us to consider this lesson. "Hear what the unjust judge saith." If an unjust judge would respond to the persistent cry of a poor widow, then a just, powerful, and loving God would certainly listen to and avenge his own elect.
Effectual fervent prayer availeth much. A key factor in this parable is the persistent appeal of the widow, which should inspire fervent prayer from the elect. Remember this purpose, "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint." The elect must have faith enough in the power of God to avenge them, to keep on praying persistently, without fainting. James reminds us of the importance of persistent prayer; "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16) Shall he find faith? It would appear that the Master is asking whether he would find this kind of real faith, this kind of strong belief when he comes. Remember the example of Abraham? "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness." (Rom 4: 20-22)
There is another account in Luke 7: 2-10 that helps us to appreciate the kind of faith that Jesus hopes to find when he comes. In this account, the centurion had real faith that Jesus could heal his servant, even from a distance. Jesus was so impressed with this kind of real faith that he remarked, "I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."
"Shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?" There seems to be significance in the type of approach that is expected from the elect. The word cry in this verse means to shout for help. It is a very active, earnest and vocal appeal, perhaps reminiscent of the "prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears" that Jesus offered during his final hours of trial.
We see a similar example from the writings of Ezekiel. "And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary." (Ezek. 9:4-6) Those who sighed and cried over the abominations that were surrounding them were spared from destruction, because of their serious concern and demonstrative appeal.
This same principle is illustrated through a consideration of the attitude of Lot in Sodom. "And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deed;)" (2 Pet. 2:7-8)
We may think that Lot was very weak and that he looked for "a city" in Sodom.
We may feel that he actually created his own problems, suffering the loss of most of his family, by choosing to dwell among the wicked. But whatever mistakes Lot made, he maintained his righteous standing before God; he had enough faith to sigh and cry to his Heavenly Father, over the abominations that were surrounding him. He was sincerely vexed by the filthy conversation of the wicked.
The attitudes of latter day saints? When Jesus returns, will he find his servants responding like the poor widow, who had enough faith in the power of the unjust judge to persistently appeal for vengeance? Will he find us sighing and crying over the abominations? Will he find servants that are as righteous as "just Lot", who are vexed by the immorality in today's world? Will he find the elect crying day and night to be avenged? Will he find this kind of faith?
We live in perilous times in a world that is filled with wickedness, violence and terror. People are being abused and murdered daily, by those who think they do their god a service. The judicial systems of this world are continually reinterpreting the laws to justify all manner of sin. The entertainment mediums are thriving on displays of pornography, sex and violence. We live and work with people who are engaged in lifestyles that are an abomination to God. How is all of this effecting us as latter day servants of God?
The adversary that we should be asking to be avenged of is the law of sin that is influencing all men, as is abundantly manifested throughout this evil world. When this adversary gains the advantage over any individual, he may no longer cry for vengeance. He may begin to feel comfortable, perhaps even enjoying the pleasures of sin. He may become more inclined toward moderation and tolerance, becoming very comfortable in this present world. This might even lead to a sense of disappointment, if the Master comes before he has enjoyed all of the desired things of this world.
On the other hand, our persistent cry that this adversary will be destroyed should demonstrate a sincere desire for redemption, with real faith that God will fulfill His promises. We must show trust in His plan, knowing that we will only be free from this war against the law of our mind when the Master returns and our bodies of sin are finally changed.
Shall he find faith? Looking at present trends in today's household, we are inclined to say - not very much!" Our deeds manifest a serious lack of faith; strong sighing and crying for vengeance is not prevalent; vexation with a world that lies in wickedness is minimal.
The Children of Israel were not allowed into their promised rest because of lack of faith. Their hearts had been hardened through the deceitfulness of sin... So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief." (Heb. 3: 13,19) "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it." (Heb. 4:1)
He did not find faith in that day; he found an "evil heart of unbelief." Will it be any different when the son of man comes to this generation? The promise in the Master's parable is that if we truly believe in the promises, after much longsuffering and waiting patiently for his return, we will be avenged quickly. "Shall he find faith on the earth?" We each make our own answer now.