Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Signs of the Times - Part 1

We have discussed many Biblical prophecies relating to end time events. Most of our discussions have centered on the antichrist, the beasts and the Book of Revelation. In this post, we’re going to take a look at other verses in the Bible that give us clues to the time in which we live. I believe that we’re given many clues that we can apply to today’s world. For me, it has become clear that we are on the edge of passing into the final stages before Christ’s return at the end of this age. We’re going to see the formation of a worldwide political ‘beast’. We’re going to see the Roman Catholic Church become a ‘beast’ once again. We will see increasing climate change that results in more severe storms, drought and famine. Wars will become even more intense. During all of this, we will also see an increase in the persecution of God’s saints. Why does God reveal these things to us? He has given us these clues so that we will not be deceived by the world. Learn the truth of what is happening and why. Jesus told us these things must happen, but to endure until the end. Focus on God’s kingdom. If you’re reading this because an event has taken place that has caused widespread fear, ask yourself why you could not see it coming. I have spoken with many true Christians who know, as I do, that the U.S. cannot continue on its present course without God’s correction. They may not have received a specific word from the Lord on judgment, but they know God’s Word and they know what happens when a nation refuses to heed the Lord’s warnings. They know that there are only two paths from here – our nation repents and returns to the Lord or we do not change and the Lord corrects us. If the things happening in the world have caught you unaware, remember what Jesus told us in Revelation chapter 3. As I’ve mentioned before, many of us are members of the church of Laodicea.

"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 3:14-22)

Step back and think about your spiritual life. Are you hot or cold or lukewarm? The truth is that many of us today are lukewarm. Many of us are wealthy and live comfortable lives, but are spiritually poor….and therefore spiritually blind. Many of us in the church cannot hear the Lord. Many of us are not following His will. It’s time for us to change.

Although I believe that our generation is the church of Laodicea and is receiving a warning from Jesus in the above verses, I also believe that He is giving us words of encouragement in the following verses:

"I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." (Colossians 2:1-8)

Let’s start our discussion of the biblical signs present in our world today by looking at the Book of Mathew, chapter 24. This is the chapter where Jesus tells us about the signs of the end of this age:

“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Mathew 24:1-8)

This chapter begins with Jesus walking in Jerusalem. He starts by telling his disciples that ‘every stone will be thrown down’. He’s speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus also speaks of this in Mathew 23:37-38: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.” Here Jesus speaks of Israel’s unwillingness to believe the Truth and its rejection of the Lord’s prophets. The question becomes, is Jesus talking about the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 A.D. or is this something that will take place during the very end of this age? Was 'every stone thrown down' in 70 A.D.? Since His disciples asked Him about this and His return in the same sentence, I believe it is possible this is something that will happen towards the very end of this age. The remaining verses in chapter 24 also speak of end time events. Since I do not believe in coincidences, I believe that it is certainly possible that this destruction was mentioned in Mathew 24 because Jesus is telling us this will happen toward the end of the age.

After being asked by His disciples about signs of the end of the age, Jesus immediately warns us about being deceived. He is giving us a direct warning – there will be much deception in the world during the end times. He then tells us that many will claim to be Christ. Is He saying that many will say they are actually Jesus Christ? I believe the answer is no. Jesus is telling us that many will offer false religions with false salvation. We are then told about wars and nations rising against nations. Earthquakes and famines will happen throughout the world. We are then given a vital key to these things. Jesus tells us that these events are the beginning of ‘birth pains’. Think about what happens during childbirth. As the delivery progresses, contractions become more intense and happen more often. I believe we can safely assume that as we come closer to Christ’s return - wars, earthquakes and famines will all become more intense and will increase in number. Think about the world today. Wars continue to rage around the world, we are seeing a significant number of earthquakes happening every week and famines continue. It’s going to get worse.

The chapter continues with verse 9:

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Mathew 24:9-14).

We are being told that true followers of Christ will be persecuted and some will be put to death. This parallels other verses throughout the Bible (including verses in Revelation). Christ’s true followers are persecuted. We are then told that many will turn away from true faith in Jesus. Again, this parallels Revelation in that immense pressure will be placed on believers. Those without a true, strong faith will fall. Many will not be able to stand against our enemy. Only those with true faith will be able to stand. Jesus then warns us again against false prophets and deception. This also parallels Revelation 13:13-14 “And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth”. Does this deception exist today? Absolutely. If you’ve read my other posts, then you are aware of just how deceived we are.

Verse 12 gives us another clue that Jesus is talking about our times. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold”. Think about the world in which we live today. Has wickedness increased? Violence permeates our society. Jails are overflowing. Pornography is available in most of our homes either through the internet or television. School shootings are happening more often. Wars are raging. As a result of our times, is the love of most growing cold? How often do you see someone really reaching out to others – whether they know the person or not? There are certainly faithful people in the world, but it appears that most of us are becoming more isolated. We spend less time with family and friends and helping others. As a result, our focus shifts from our relationship with God and those that we love, to things in the world – pursuit of wealth, material goods, social status, etc. Empty things that the Lord tells us are meaningless pursuits.

We live in a very busy, ‘self’ society where most of what is talked about and done is for ‘me’, not others. This is the basis of sin – selfishness. There are countless self help books available, but they cannot give us what we’re searching for – our Creator and His purpose for us. If you’re working today (as most of us are), think about how the working world has changed in the past 15 years. How many of us leave work at 5pm each day? How long are we commuting? How much actual time are we spending with our spouses, our children, our families? With cell phones, blackberries and other devices, many of us don’t ever really leave work. There were times when I would get up on Sunday, answer a few emails on my blackberry and not even realize that I left it on my hip during church. My mind would even wander in church to things I needed to do at work on Monday. I couldn’t even give God one hour every week. I would have conversations with my wife, family and friends, but I wouldn’t always be engaged in the conversation. My mind would shift to work-related issues, problems, planning – things that needed to get done. There’s obviously nothing wrong with working to provide for ourselves and our families. In fact, the Bible instructs us to do so. ‘For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”’ (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The problem is that for many of us, our work has become the focus of our lives. This is not biblical. ‘If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' ‘For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ (Mathew 6:30-34). The glaring truth is that most of us do not have the faith required to put the Lord’s Word into practice. If you’re like I was, I couldn’t seek God first because I needed to earn a living to buy nice things before anything else. The opposite of what the Bible tells us to do. I allowed our enemy to pull me away from the truth because I wasn’t reading God’s Word and praying to Him. I was defenseless against the devil’s schemes. I couldn’t even see them.

We don’t like to admit that we have allowed our spiritual enemy to deceive us, but he has in many ways. It’s time to put away our pride and realize that we don’t know it all, that we don’t have all of the answers we’re seeking. It’s time to realize it, understand it and start following the Lord, not our own way.

No comments: