Iniquity Will Abound, and the Love of Many Will Grow Cold — How We Should Respond?
Rick Renner is a highly respected Bible teacher and leader in the international Christian community. Rick is the author of the bestsellers Dressed To Kill and Sparkling Gems From the Greek 1 and 2, which have sold more than 3 million copies combined. Rick’s broad understanding of the Greek language and biblical history opens up the Scriptures in a unique way that enables readers to gain wisdom and insight while learning something brand new from the Word of God.
Today Rick is the senior pastor of the Moscow Good News Church and the founder of Media Mir, the first Christian television network in the former USSR that today broadcasts the Gospel to countless Russian-speaking viewers around the world via multiple satellites and the Internet. Heis also the founder and president of Rick Renner Ministries, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and host to his TV program that is seen around the world in multiple languages. Rick leads this amazing work with his wife and lifelong ministry partner, Denise, along with the help of their sons and committed leadership team.
The following article was adapted from Rick’s newest book Signs You’ll See Just Before Jesus Comes, which can be purchased at renner.org.Each one of the end-time signs Jesus enumerated in Matthew 24:3-14 has the potential to affect thousands and tens of thousandsof people on the planet at a time. In this passage of Scripture, Christ foretold that in the very last days, we would witness the following events and developments:
- widespread deception
- signs in the heavens
- economic instability
- rumors of wars
- legal prosecution of Christians
- unknown diseases
- imprisonment of believers
- ethnic conflicts
- great seismic activity
- emergence of false prophets
- warring political systems
- fearful sights
- the love of many waxing cold
But one sign — “the love of many waxing cold” (see Matthew 24:12) — is singularly the sign that every one of us should pay particular attention to. This sign can occur in every single home, church, community, city, state, and nation on earth. In fact, Jesus described this sign as a worldwide, societal occurrence. And because it will happen among “sinners and saints” as the end draws near, Christians across the globe are susceptible to this mass phenomenon.
Jesus said, “…Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12).
In Greek, the word “iniquity” actually describes lawlessness. This verse could literally read: “…Because lawlessnessshall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” The word “lawlessness” is plural in the Greek text, which tells us Jesus was foretelling a time when lawlessness would escalate around the world.
In this verse, “lawlessness” refers to the actions of an individual, a group of people, a nation — or even an entire society or culture — that has chosen to live apart from God’s laws and principles. Although this person or group previously followed biblical principles in general, they elected to forge their own ways of doing things that are not founded on God’s Word. Thus, they became lawless, living by newly evolving principles that are not based on established truths that are so vividly portrayed in Scripture.
A Worldwide Rejection of God
In Romans 1, the apostle Paul also wrote about a mass departure from God’s principles and the results of such a fateful decision. In verse 28, Paul wrote, “And even as they [society] did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”
The word “retain” means to holdor to embrace. In Romans 1:28, this word is used to communicate a people who choose not to hold or embrace the knowledge of God. Hence, they knowingly choose to “let go” of God and His well-established laws in order to go in a new direction.
This collective rejection of God and His time-tested truths is confirmed in Second Thessalonians 2:3, where Paul described a great “falling away” of people in the last days. He wrote, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”
In this verse, Paul prophetically described a falling away that will transpire in society at large at the very end of this age. In that hour, the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thessalonians 2:7), which has been working for some 2,000 years, will be unleashed full steamin an attempt to lead the entire planet into various forms of deception. Once the Church has been “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17), the lost world in general will reject God altogether and substitute Him with the son of perdition, otherwise known as the antichrist.
But what about this falling away that will occur before all these events on the prophetic timeline unfold? The words for “falling away” in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) depict a mass mutiny against authority. But in Second Thessalonians 2:3, they describe a society revolting against the authority of God Himself at the end of the age.
It is a fact that both Jesus and Paul prophesied that a great falling away will occur at the end of the age. The Bible describes it as a worldwide rebellion against God. As a result of people’s own choice to let God go from their consciences, Paul said that God “…gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:28).
‘Reprobate’ — a Sin-Damaged Mind
The Greek word for “reprobate” depicts a mind that no longer thinks or reasons correctly. Due to the influence of sin, it has become unfit. Although the words twistedor pervertedare uncomfortable to use in today’s world, these are actually the correct words to portray a reprobate mind. It is a mind that is damaged as a result of sin or of a drifting away from God’s authority.
The word “reprobate” thus pictures the mind of an individual, or even the mind of an entire society or culture, becoming ill-affected and sin-damaged, especially in regard to conclusions about moral issues. A reprobate mind is one that has become so distortedthat it eventually loses its ability to discern what is morally right and wrong. Although that mind may remain brilliantly intellectual in many respects — morally, it has become debased. In God’s view, it is a mind that has lost its ability to separate good from evil and to sense what is right and wrong.
This dilemma of moral confusion is precisely what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24:12 when He said that iniquity, or lawlessness, will abound in society as we collide against the very end of the age.
This prophecy not only applies to a lost world, but the word “reprobate” can also refer to those in the Christian communitywho have veered from the truths of God’s Word. They have made so many exceptions for sinful behavior that it has produced in them a mind that no longer feels the pain or conviction of sin. Behaviors that once grieved and broke the heart are now being done with no feeling of pain to the conscience whatsoever.
What It Means To Be ‘Past Feeling’ — The Process of Growing Cold
The apostle Paul also alluded to the issue of mind-damaging sin and iniquity when he wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:19).
What does it mean to be “past feeling”? I’ll illustrate it for you using a story from my childhood.
When I was a young boy in school just learning to write, I would press so hard on my pencil that I formed a callus that is still on my finger today. By pressing, pressing, pressing the pencil onto the paper as I formed each curve and stroke, I also pressed the pencil into my finger. I made that spot so thick and calloused that even now, I have no feeling there whatsoever. I could stick a pin into that part of my finger and feel absolutely nothing.
This is precisely what happens when a Christian commits sin again and again and again. He eventually grows calloused to that sin, and he no longer feels the pain that it once produced in his heart. Instead, he adapts to the callousness and learns to live in sin in that area of his life with no feeling about his wrongdoing.
This condition of becoming calloused in some area occurs when a person participates in sin or dwells on thoughts of sin again andagain. At first, the sin pricks his conscience. But if he continues to yield to the temptation and routinely “apply the pressure” of that sin against his heart and soul, he will harden himself — just as I hardened that spot on my finger through pressure until it formed a callus. He will begin adapting his beliefs and opinions to that sin until he no longer feels the pain of conviction that was once produced by his wrongdoing.
Is There Hope?
For believers who have made the mistake of yielding to sinful behavior for so long that it has spiritually damaged their hearts and minds, there is hope. If they will acknowledge that they’ve strayed, and they are willing to repent (see 1 John 1:9), the Holy Spirit will rise up as a mighty force within and begin to invade their willing minds to renew them again to the truth.
This is a transformation of the mind that will require one to submit his or her mind to the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 12:1,2). It will require courage and commitment, for once the mind has become reprobate, it can only be restored to its previous condition by submitting itself 100 percent to the truth of God’s Word.
It is simply a fact that once a mind has become debased, it takes a great commitment to renew it. But the good news is that if a waywardbeliever is willing to turn, the Holy Spirit will do the miracle, renewing that sin-damaged mind to a right, holy, fit condition!
The Pulpit’s Complete Task
There are people who have tolerated sin or sinful thoughts so long that they have lost the ability to feel conviction in that area of their lives. This is why it is vital that all preaching and teaching is Word-based, anointed, and straightforward. Only that kind of preaching and teaching has the power to shake people from slumber and keep them tender of heart, yet strong in spirit.
Let’s look at what preaching and teaching does for the heart and soul of the hearer when it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul clearly said that Holy Spirit-inspired preaching should do three things: reprove, rebuke, and exhort (see2 Timothy 4:2). Therefore, if all a congregation hears is exhortation, it means two-thirds of what preaching is supposed to do is completely left out! Good Bible preaching and Spirit-empowered expository teaching shakes people from apathy and keeps them strong. Hence, it is essential that we have all three aspects of the preaching of the Word in our pulpits — reproving, rebuking, and exhorting.
Let me explain the difference between these three facets of the ministry of the Word from Second Timothy 4:2. Paul commanded us as ministers of the Gospel: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”
- “Reprove” is from the Greek word elegcho. In this context, it means to convict or to censure a listener with the clear preaching and teaching of the Word of God. To reprove is to convict with such effectual feeling that one is brought to his senses and to the point of conviction for wrong actions and wrong thinking in his life. The offender must choose either to repent or to reject what he now knows to be true. This is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to bring change to a person’s heart, but it requires a personal response from the listener in order to effect a change.
- “Rebuke” is from the Greek word epitimao. It is the same word that is used in the gospels when Jesus “rebukes” a demon spirit. It is a sharp correction that expresses strong disapproval of one’s thoughts, actions, or deeds. It points out where an offender is wrong and gives him instruction on how to do what is right. It represses the prevalence of evil and strongly opposes what is wrong in a person or in society.
It is essential for sin and sinful behavior to be “rebuked” by those in the pulpit at the right time and the right setting, as led by the Spirit of God. For a pastor to ignore sin and never address it permits a congregation to avoid taking the issue of sin seriously. The absence of godly rebuke can lead believers to become calloused to sin and its ravaging consequences.
- “Exhort” is from the Greek word parakaleo. It means to urge, to exhort, or to admonish. It is a type of preaching or teaching that undergirds believers with spiritual strength and admonishes them to press forward toward God’s highest will regardless of the opposition faced along the way. Godly exhortation is strong, anointed, and motivational, stirring the listener to cast off defeat and press on toward victory.
This kind of preaching and teaching is essential to keep the Church focused on victorious living and the fact that they can overcome the world and achieve every dream God has put in their hearts.
All three of these elements of God’s Word must be practiced in the Church. To be accurate and obedient to the call of God as ministers of the Gospel, we must reprove, rebuke, and exhort — and we must do it with “all longsuffering and doctrine” (see2 Timothy 4:2).
We have a responsibility in this hour to delve into the Word and seek Him with fervor as never before. It is necessary to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that our own love doesn’t grow cold. To maintain our fire for Christ in these last days, we must abide by our commitment to withdraw from ungodly influences that numb us to the consequences of sin. It is essential that we stay close to the fire of the Spirit if we’re going to stay passionate in our love for Jesus. If we make any other choice, we run the risk of allowing the lawlessness that is running amuck in the world to affect us, and just as Jesus said, our love will grow cold.
So let us purposefully draw near to the fire of the Spirit. Jesus is coming soon, and when He comes to evacuate the Church from planet Earth, we do not want Him to find that we have “waxed cold” and grown disinterested in the faith. Despite the strong sway of the world and its trappings, nothing in life is more exciting than walking with God! There is nothing more satisfying than fulfilling our place in His master plan in the time that remains before Christ returns.