From what I have said on this website for the past three years now, you know I am convinced that hard and testing days lie ahead for the church in America, the more so because the prophecy about the false shepherds in the sheepfold will be amply fulfilled, indeed is being fulfilled already. How beautiful, then, to see so many induced these days to live in the reality of Christ abstemiously -- rather than indulging in what Pascal called "licking the earth." They are reading the Bible with a voracious appetite (and related literature as well), and they know Jesus Christ and follow His way, even if that means inconvenience of a major sort. Like Bunyan's Pilgrim, they go withersoever the true path leads -- sometimes through pleasant pastures, at other times over gigantic hills, at still other times into sloughs and valleys of the shadow of death. But in their eyes there is always the vision of the Celestial City, not just in prospect, but in glorious and daily reality.
You fellow citizens of a heavenly kingdom, I applaud you with joy and honor, for it is to you that these web musings are primarily directed. You are precious friends and fellow travelers.
May you continue to refuse the Unholy Grail. (emphasis mine)
This post might wind up being a series, because my heart is so full on this subject. We could go many directions from here with our discussion: false teachers, end times, watching to stand fast in the faith. I think I'd like to talk a little about the last two today: keeping watch because of the end times.
Below I have quoted most of Matthew 24, a passage I consider very important for understanding what we can expect as the parousia (Second Coming) draws near. I am not going to delve today into all I believe about the end times--that'll be another post.
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, 'tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?' And Jesus answered them, 'See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, "I am the Christ," and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, "Look, here is the Christ!" or "There he is!" do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, "Look, he is in the wilderness," do not go out. If they say, "Look, he is in the inner rooms," do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
First and foremost, why is Jesus saying these things?
- v.4 So that "no one leads you astray" (misleads or deceives you) This tells us that the enemy will indeed seek to deceive us on this issue. Jesus doesn't warn for nothing.
So what can we expect?
- False Christs/prophets who lead many astray (popular, not rare)
- Wars and rumors of wars
- Famines and earthquakes
- Tribulation and hatred toward Christians, who will be martyred
- An increase in lawlessness (I see this being particularly fulfilled in our day)
- A Great Tribulation that is worse than anything the world has ever seen
- A Second Coming that everyone will see and hear (not a secret coming, but I won't get into that now)
And those are just some of the indications of the end times. I believe as the end draws nearer, those things will increase in frequency and magnitude, as it says lawlessness will.
(By the way, I think about "lawlessness" a lot. Have you noticed that more and more people attempt to eek by the traffic light after it's red? That too is lawlessness--a disregard for law (especially God's Law), and choosing to do your own will instead of obeying God. It's amazing to watch this playing out in our society. Scripture is being fulfilled before our eyes as "each man does what is right in his own eyes.")
And notice, later in Matthew 24, what Jesus tells the disciples to make sure they are doing:
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, 'My master is delayed,' and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus goes on in Matthew 25 to tell the parable of the Ten Virgins. Short synopsis: five were ready when the Bridegroom came; five were not. Only the prepared five went with the bridegroom and had entry to the wedding feast.
We do not know the day or hour, but will Christians be ignorant of the times? Will we be utterly taken by surprise? I say no, based on this passage:
1 Thessalonians 5 discusses the Day of the Lord; the same image of a thief is used. The world will be marrying and giving in marriage, in utter ignorance that the end has come, but Christians, who were warned ahead of time in the Bible what is to come, will be watching.
1 Thess 5:1-6
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
We are not in darkness that any of the enemy's schemes should take us by surprise (2 Cor 2:11)! The admonition to watch applies just as much to our everyday lives as it does to the end times.
There is MUCH more to say regarding the timing of things as the end draws near, but for today I just wanted to agree with Dave and exhort everyone to keep watching. Regardless of your eschatological beliefs--if we all hold fast to Jesus no matter what happens, no matter what tribulation or terror befalls us, we will one day rejoice with Him face to face!