The Age of Ear Tickling
Robert Wurtz II
Then I solemnly witness before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, He being about to judge the living and dead at His appearance and His kingdom: preach the Word, be urgent in season, out of season, convict, warn, encourage with all long-suffering and teaching. For a time will be when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own lusts, they will heap up to themselves teachers tickling the ear; and they will turn away the ear from the truth and will be turned aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4 LITV)
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the eternal gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people — saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water (Revelation 14:6-7).
We live in the age of ear-tickling. In modern times, preaching is often designed to hype up the hearer and make them feel good about themselves rather than accomplish what God intended in 2 Timothy 4:1-4. Ear tickling is an art form. Men are polished in the delivery of it, and many have attained an almost rock-star status. People praise them and hang on every word (Ezekiel 13:1-23). If you didn’t know better, you would think the preacher was the god being exalted and worshipped rather than the One who sits upon the throne preparing to judge the earth (Matthew 7:15-20).
It is sobering to know that John the Baptist started a string of martyrdoms for preaching God’s true word. Yet, today, teachers and preachers are lauded and praised (Luke 6:26). Paul was nearly beaten to death numerous times for preaching repentance (Acts 26:20-21). This is not what happens today. Do you know why? Ministers often have entirely different messages. If modern preachers preached the messages of these men, they would be persecuted rather than celebrated (2 Timothy 3:12). They wouldn’t ride around with an entourage; they would need armed guards to protect their lives like Paul (Acts 23:27).
The Message that Doesn’t Match the Times
At a time when the world has rarely been so wicked, ear-tickling preachers are filling people’s minds with every myth imaginable (2 Timothy 3:13). Rather than comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable; they say things that Peter and Paul would hear and probably say, “What on earth is this man talking about? Who sent these people?” Is there any hope for the world when all we seem to hear in the mainstream is some form of humanism?
Fear not! Someday God will send forth an angel in the midst of heaven, preaching the eternal gospel. The age of ear-tickling will end, and a faithful preacher will do God’s bidding. What is the eternal gospel? I wonder how many years it’s been since the eternal gospel was preached, at least in the mainstream? Do you believe you have heard the eternal gospel? How does it square with what this angel declares in Revelation 14:6-7?
What is most staggering about the eternal gospel as preached by the angel is that it doesn’t begin with the typical “God loves you, and He has a wonderful plan for your life” sales pitch. It doesn’t speak of release, get ready, or a host of other pithy sayings designed to hype people up and steer their minds away from the fact that we must examine ourselves and ensure we are ready for the Judgment. It doesn’t begin (like children are taught in Sunday School) with “Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Instead, the angel declares, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
The Emphasis of the Fear of God in Heaven
It’s important to point out that the host of heaven (men and angels) have the fear of God front and center in their minds. Consider the lyrics of a song that we would typically hear in heaven from the song of Moses, “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested” (Revelation 15:4). We have made Psalms into songs and other scripture verses. What about these lyrics in Revelation 15:4 or 14:6-7? If not, why not? Are we out of touch with heaven? Have you heard these lyrics on K-Love or Air1 (Air One)?
In his commentary on Revelation, David Pawson wrote, “Some people have an odd idea of the gospel — they think that the gospel is ‘God is love, and that is all. That is not the gospel of my Bible. The gospel of my Bible begins, Fear God. You can love him then, but you fear him first. The eternal gospel the angel preaches begins, ‘Fear God. Unless you fear God, you will not seek forgiveness. ‘Fear God and give him glory. Why? The angel continues, ‘because the hour of his judgment has come.”
What David Pawson (DP) is saying is common knowledge for those who removed their proverbial rose-colored glasses and are taking the biblical texts at face value. This generation needs to take the blinders off before it’s too late. We have an Americanized gospel from the high-speed crusade evangelism of the 20th century, the television “ministries” of the 1960s, and the prosperity gospel. It is a Gospel of humanism that makes everything about “what God wants to do for you” rather than what we are obligated to do for Him. These venues and doctrines are mainly responsible for the corruption and compromise of the eternal gospel and the insipid saltless generation that has ushered in the greatest loss of Christian values in a single age since Pentecost. Is this why an angel must come along and declare it to every creature under heaven? Can’t God find a faithful man to do it?
Counting the Cost
In Luke 14, Jesus sets forth the reality of the cost of serving Him. He stated, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.'” (Luke 14:26-30)
In the late 1950s, a preacher came on Television with a vision to build a space needle-type studio in Cuyahoga Falls, near Akron, Ohio. Unfortunately, the illustration Jesus gave regarding the tower was more of a prophecy and warning than a mere illustration. I wrote a book entitled “Televangelicalism: How We Lost the Gospel,” addressing this matter in depth.
The short version of the story goes like this: In the late 1960s, Rex Humbard did what Jesus talked about in Luke 14:26-40. He built a 494 ft. concrete tower and was unable to finish it. Why? Because he didn’t sit down and count the cost of whether he had what he needed to finish the job. I have visited this tower. It is an awful blight on the landscape, as seen from the interstate. I’m told that there is so much concrete and steel in the foundation that it would destroy the neighborhood to try and blast it down. So it has sat there now for almost 50 years as a reminder. It would be inappropriate for me to type the name the townspeople have given this nearly 500-foot concrete and steel eyesore in this article.
Hyped Up on Humanism
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple (Romans 16:16-17).
In Galatians, Paul pronounced a curse upon people who preach any other Gospel than what we receive from the scriptures (Galatians 1:7-8). Yet what are we to make of those who have filled the world with eternal security, prosperity preaching, and the sinner’s prayer? This failure with the tower project, I believe, is representative of failure to preach the Gospel that includes the message of “counting the cost.”
Since then, men rarely preached the eternal gospel as Paul and the angel preached it. Instead, we have normalized a compromised humanistic message. People get angry and hostile when I point this out because they are generally more concerned for their favorite preachers than the integrity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These ear ticklers have put peoples’ souls at risk by preaching a half-baked impotent message that can’t save anybody and leaves them feeling good when they should be under conviction.
Understand that Paul would not have shared this generation’s zeal for men who play fast and loose with the Gospel and God’s word. He would not be moved by this hyped-up humanism on steroids. He would have cursed these men, no doubt. Why? Because they have altered the Gospel. He cursed men for changing it far less than we see today. Why? Because he knew the enormity of preaching. Moreover, we cannot continue to overlook this because most peoples’ idea of the Gospel is what they have heard ear-tickling preachers say. They don’t read the Bible for themselves to know better. I wouldn’t say what these me tell people for all the Gold on earth. The mere thought of it terrifies me.
The No-Cost Gospel
This “no-cost” (don’t count the cost) gospel that is preached today is completely man-centered. It is humanism, plain and simple. Humanism is interested in people’s happiness rather than God’s purposes and interests. “God will do this or that for you. God loves you and wants to bless you.” Nonsense. That is no message to preach to a sinner who has one foot in hell and another on a banana peeling. Listen again to the angel preach the everlasting good news, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come (…).” John the Baptist spoke of wrath that was coming. In Acts 17, at Mars Hill, Paul warned the pagans of a judgment day coming in which Christ would judge the world in righteousness. Yet today, with judgment even at the door, modern preachers tell us it’s all about love and blessing. They are the devil’s ear ticklers — not God’s prophets and evangelists.
Following the Angel’s Lead
I recently heard a female preacher tell of what she called “false prophets” coming into churches and giving words that were not under authority. Certainly, we want decency and order in the churches, but it’s as if many pastors today are terrified that someone will come in and challenge their false gospel. Presumably, she believes that prophets should belong to a denomination and have credentials and a “covering” to use modern jargon. To what organization did Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Micah, Malachi, Ezekiel, Hosea, Isaiah, Daniel, Noah, Moses, Jonah, Zechariah, Enoch, Joel, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, Apollos or Agabus belong? I’ll wait.
If a person is a false prophet because they aren’t under authority, we need to burn our Bibles. Because none of these men belonged to any of the tens of thousands of artificial religious structures (denominations) of our times, they were under God’s authority. They didn’t ask the pastors or leaders for permission to prophesy. Sadly, the leaders were usually the first people rebuked. Why do you think God had to send an angel to declare the eternal gospel? It’s because men are not declaring it.
I believe that God likely allowed this three-year Covid 19 pandemic to shut churches down because ministers are not preaching the Gospel as it was “once and for all delivered to the saints.” What’s more disturbing is that the message has not changed since we’re back to normal. Many churches have half the people as before or less. What’s it going to take to get peoples’ attention? You would think that God would have everyone’s, especially the ministers, undivided attention. Just as Jesus prophesied regarding the last days, it’s business as usual (Luke 17:26-28). It reminds me of the sinners in Revelation who blaspheme God as He pours out judgment rather than repenting.
Maybe by the time we reach Revelation 14, the TV preachers have so corrupted people, pastors, and preachers that there isn’t a person on earth with the boldness to preach the Gospel as God wants it preached — so He has to send an angel to do the job. Think about the madness of that. Did everyone forget what the eternal gospel is all about? Does anyone read the Gospels anymore? Take Jesus’ words seriously anymore? So why will God need an angel to remind us? What’s it going to take to put an end to this age of ear-tickling? God has a solution.
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people — saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Revelation 14:6-7).