The world spirals more and more into chaos. Although Christians in every generation have believed Jesus would return in their lifetimes, current events suggest to me that He may come within the next few decades. Don’t interpret that statement as a prophecy, however. I claim neither prophetic powers nor a clear understanding of eschatology.
Having made my disclaimer, permit me to make my main point. Regardless of whether the Lord returns before I publish this post or comes 2000 years from now, I see an urgency for Christians to proclaim the Gospel! Yes, I believe the Bible teaches the doctrine of election, but I also believe the Holy Spirit chooses to bring those He elects to salvation through the faithful proclamation of His Word (Romans 10:14-17). Furthermore, I believe hearing God’s Word confirms the non-Christian’s guilt before God, rendering him or her incapable of charging God with injustice (Romans 9:14-33). In either case, the Lord emphatically declares that His Word will accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 55:10-11).
That isn’t to say that we should present the Gospel in a dispassionate manner, announcing that people can’t come to salvation apart from the Father’s drawing (John 6:44). Usually, the time for explaining the doctrine of Total Inability comes after a conversion. Notice, for example, that Peter omitted it in his impassioned sermon at Pentecost.
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. ~~Acts 2:37-41 (ESV)
Yes, ladies, in verse 40 Peter (speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit, mind you) actually admonished his audience to save themselves. Was he ignorant of Jesus’ words in John 6:44 and the many other times Jesus spoke of Total Inability? I highly doubt it! Rather, he saw the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel. His sense of urgency compelled him to emphasize human responsibility. He knew that no one could exercise that responsibility apart from the Lord’s intervention, but He also knew that the elect would respond to his exhortation.
Peter believed the Lord would return in his lifetime. Accordingly, he proclaimed the Gospel in basic terms, knowing that he could offer more complete instruction if the Lord tarried.
At this point in my life, I no longer hold myself responsible for convincing people to believe the Gospel. I pray, certainly, and I proclaim the Gospel, but then I trust the Lord with the results. The urgency I sense has little to do with muscling people into the kingdom and everything to do with being faithful to the Lord.
These may indeed be the last of the last days. I sincerely hope so. But if the Lord plans to wait a few millennia more before His triumphal return, it still holds true that we live in extremely troubling times. Sadly, many people who profess to be Christians have fallen into doctrinal error, sinful behaviors or both to such a degree that they also need the Gospel. Therefore, we must never lay it aside or allow “Christian” fads to obscure it. We must declare it boldly, prayerfully, and with assurance that the Holy Spirit will use it to bring salvation to His elect.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ~~Romans 1:16 (ESV)