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Honest Questions 5. Are We in the End Times?

A man really enjoyed his grandfather clock until it went haywire and chimed 14 times one midnight. He jumped up and yelled to his wife, “Wake up, Nellie, it’s later than it’s ever been before!” Brothers and sisters, it’s later than it’s ever been because we are living in the last hour. The question is not, “When will Jesus return?” The question is, “What will we do before He gets here?”

The end times or “last days” began with the Ascension of Christ and will last until the 2nd Coming. The Bible uses terms like, “last days,” “later times,” or “the last hour” to refer to events surrounding the return of Christ.

Cartoon captures some of the confusion when talking about end times – “I don’t understand Eschatology!” “Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world!” 2 extremes we must avoid -

• Sensationalising. For some the tendency is to obsess about biblical prophecy by trying to fit every news headline into a tidy prophetic timeline. Paul cautions Christians against prophetic presumption - 2 Thessalonians 2: 2 “…not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.” Some believers in Thessalonica had stopped working and were just waiting for the return of Christ.

• Trivialising. Others don’t think about the return of Christ at all and even roll their eyes at this important doctrine. Jude 18, 19 “In the last time there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.”

Preliminary Points

1. We don’t know for sure when Jesus is coming back but we’re sure He is! For every 1 verse in the Bible that speaks about Jesus’ 1st coming there are 8 verses which describe His 2nd coming? 1 Thessalonians refers to the return of Christ in every chapter!

2. There are differences of interpretation regarding end time events. I’ve learned over the years not to divide over disagreements related to eschatology because Bible-believing people have different views on this topic. “I believe that the end of this age is approaching and will culminate in that ‘blessed hope’ - the personal return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

3. We must avoid date setting. For the past 2000 years undiscerning and reckless Christians have been setting dates for when Christ would return. Jesus warned against this - Matthew 24: 36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

4. History and future events are linear, not cyclical. History is “His-story” and is headed somewhere. I believe the next big date on God’s calendar is the return of Jesus Christ.

5. The aim of prophecy is always practical. We want to know the “when” and “what” questions, Jesus focuses on “who” we need to be and “how” we should live in light of His return - Luke 18: 8 “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Ultimately, the question is not when Jesus will return but what will we do before He gets here. Let’s focus on being faithful and let God handle the end of the world!

The Beginning of the End 10 Biblical signs we are in the end times -

1. Restoration of Israel. The formation of Israel as a nation in 1948 - number one sign the end is near. Isaiah 66: 8 “Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?”

This goes back to when God made a covenant with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation - Genesis 12: 2, 3 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

God promises to bless the world through Israel. Many nations today are blasting Israel. Anti-Semitism is increasing.

Zechariah 12: 3 “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.” Iran has vowed to wipe Israel off the map.

2. Increased apostasy. 2 Thessalonians 2: 3 “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come until the rebellion occurs…” The end times will see a wholesale rejection and defection from God’s revelation as more and more fall away to our fallen world. 1 Timothy 4:1 - lived out in front of our eyes, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

Example of apostasy - Joshua Harris - former megachurch pastor -“I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

While this is shocking, statements like this should not surprise us. Jesus gave this warning - Matthew 24: 10 - 12 “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.” Each of must keep our guard up - reminded in Hebrews 3: 12 “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”

3. Growing godlessness. 2 Timothy 3: 1 - 3 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

A new code of morality has replaced the code of Christianity in our culture.

• The best way of finding yourself is by looking within yourself.

• People should not criticize someone else’s life choices.

• To be fulfilled in life, you should pursue the things you desire most.

• The highest goal in life is to enjoy it as much as possible.

• People can enjoy whatever they want, as long as those beliefs don’t affect society.

• Any kind of sexual expression between two consenting adults is acceptable.

4. Spiritual apathy. Jesus warned that He will return when people are just doing ordinary things, going through life with a “whatever” attitude - Matthew 24: 37 - 39 “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. This is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” The people ate their food and built their families, living life without any thought of coming judgment. Sounds like today.

5. False teaching. False teachers have proliferated and will become even more popular - 2 Timothy 4: 3, 4 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

6. Natural disasters. Closer to the return of Christ, we will see more and more natural disasters - Luke 21: 11 “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” In 1970 there were 78 natural disasters - 2004 - jumped to 348. Large earthquakes have risen by 450% since 1900.

7. Sinful scoffers. 2 Peter 3: 3, 4 “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’”

Someone who mocks Christ, ridicules the things of God, laughs at the 2nd coming and opposes the gospel. Psalm 1 warns about sitting in the seat of scoffers. Just make a post on social media about your faith in Jesus and how it affects your morality and see what happens.

8. International conflict. Mark 13: 7, 8 “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Jesus doesn’t want us to be disconcerted or diverted from our task.

9. Rise of antichrists. Mark 13: 5, 6 “Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.’” Jesus urges His followers to be on guard against spiritual imposters. There will be many messiahs who will lead many to wander away from the faith.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan made this statement: “God does not love this world. God never sent Jesus to die for this world…He never was on a cross, there was no Calvary for that Jesus…It didn’t happen back there. It’s happening right while you’re alive looking at it. I represent the Messiah. I represent the Jesus and I am that Jesus. If I am not, take my life.”

10. Worldwide gospel proclamation. Jesus said the end would not come until the gospel penetrates the ends of the earth - Matthew 24: 14 “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.”

Are you aware 1.5 billion people from 6000 language groups are still waiting for a full Bible in their heart language? A number of Bible translation agencies, including the Bible Society, Wycliffe and The Word for the World are now collaborating to translate the Bible into every remaining language—in this generation.

They have created a central digital Bible library called illumiNations - from Isaiah 60:3 speaks of the nations coming to God’s light: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to your shining brightness.”

“In the past, getting the Bible into another language…often took decades. But today, the world’s leading Bible translation ministries collaborate…to exchange ideas, share systems, improve practices and recruit givers. Working together, they have leveraged advancements in technology, communication, and travel to shorten the translation process, in many cases to just a few years.” They now believe they can have at least the New Testament translated for 99.9% of the world’s population by the year 2033!

Action Steps Let’s wrap up with some lessons for living in the last days. “I believe the coming of the Lord must be near. Many Christians before me have said the same thing. I’m taking my stand with them. I’d rather expect Jesus to come in my lifetime and be wrong than to be so in love with the world that I’m not ready to see Him when He comes.” The closeness of Christ’s coming should cause us to walk closely with Him today.

1. Live out your faith. Are you living more like the world than as a follower of the Lord? The study of prophecy is always meant to have a purifying effect. George Eldon Ladd: “The main purpose of prophecy is not to answer all our questions about the future but to enable God’s people to live in the present in light of the future.” 1 John 3: 2, 3 “…we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

2. Rearrange your priorities. Luke 21: 28 “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” When Jesus returns, do you want to be found being lazy? Do you want Him to hear you say, “Whatever”? Do you want Him to come back while you’re nursing that grudge? Do you want Him to return when friction and lack of forgiveness is tearing your marriage apart?

Do you want Him to appear when you’ve not been giving of your financial resources to expand His kingdom? 1 John 2: 28 “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”

3. Encourage one another. After describing end time events, Paul concludes - 1 Thessalonians 4: 18 “Therefore encourage each other with these words.” Means to come alongside to give whatever help is needed. Think of practical ways to use these end times to encourage others.

4. Tell lost people about the Lord. Don’t get so caught up in prophecy that you forget to point people to Christ. We’re not to be focused on date setting but instead we’re called to be Spirit-empowered witnesses.

5. Repent and receive Christ. Don’t delay – you could die today! Jesus could come back tonight. Have you ever wondered why Christ has not returned yet? It’s because He’s giving you time to repent…before it’s too late…and it’s later than it’s ever been! 2 Peter 3: 8 - 10 Matthew 24: 42 - 44

It is later than it’s ever been and the return of Christ is closer today than it was yesterday.

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