Friday, April 3, 2009

The End is Near?

I was having an e-mail exchange last night with a dear sister in the mid-west, discussing the current state of the church, and signs of apostasy that we had both noticed were getting worse. In the course of the exchange, she asked me, “Are we sitting right in the midst of "the" apostate church?” Good question; are we?

Now, I’m not a “date setter.” I have no respect for “date setters.” I believe “date setters” have done a lot of damage, both to the cause of Christ as well as to people’s lives, over the years. There can be an unhealthy fascination on the end times, to be sure.

But the Bible does clearly teach that there will be an end. And simply logic says that the end gets closer with every passing hour.

So, how close are we?

I believe that Bible prophecy gives us a fairly detailed look at what things will be like during the Tribulation period. When we look at the world around us, as it is today, and compare it to the descriptions we find in scripture, we can see some trends.

Revelation 13:17 says that only the followers of the Beast will be allowed to participate in the economy. We are nearing a one-world, cashless, economic system. The G20 meeting, which just wrapped up in London, imposes new, global, economic controls, and there was talk of a global currency. Since the advent of debit cards, I hardly every carry cash anymore; and I’m not alone. The only checks we write anymore are for our tithe at church, and the few bills that we don’t pay online. I can certainly see how this is setting the stage for the kind of economic control that the Antichrist will exercise over the earth. If all transactions are electronic, whoever controls the computers controls who can buy and sell.

Revelation 11:1-12 says that the whole world will watch the resurrection and ascension of God’s two witnesses. It is only recently, with satellite communications and with the internet, that this could be taken literally. Whenever something momentous happens in the world today, everybody watches it in real time. When the September 11 attacks occurred, all work stopped at the sawmill I worked at, and everybody gathered around the TVs in the lunchrooms, watching events as they happened some 2000 miles away. We also watched the invasion of Iraq in happen real time.

Paul told Timothy that the times would come when people would turn away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:4-5). Sure, this has been happening since the beginning, but it is happening more rapidly, and is more widespread, today. It is happening so rapidly, now, that it is easily discernable to anyone who wants to look.

Many have seen, and commented on, the downward spiral that the church in America is in. Strong, Bible-believing churches that I have known have fallen on hard times, others have closed. Meanwhile, the Good-time Rock-n-roll Church of What’s Happinin’ Now has had to move into an old warehouse (or sports arena) because they needed more room.

Let’s use the Southern Baptists as an example (since I am one.) In the SBC, we have the Market-driven Warren-esque wing, the experience-driven, quasi-charismatic, Blackaby-esque wing, the ecumenical Finney-Graham-Land-esque wing, the Arminian Landmarkist Vines-Patterson-esque wing, and the growing Calvinist Mohler-Ascol-Dever-esque wing (the last is the only one that I hold much hope for.)

And it isn’t just the church, our society is falling apart. We are losing our freedoms, and ungodliness is becoming more emboldened every day. The political left has long recognized that it is the religious community, generally, and Christians specifically, that stand in the way of their agenda of abortion, homosexual marriage, socialism, and general immorality. How long before there is open persecution of Christians? Look at the hatred that was shown to those who opposed gay marriage in California after the last election. It has been more than 30 years since Ruth Graham said that, if God did not bring judgment upon America, He would need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.

But we should not be frightened or worried by the world events that we see; all these things must take place. As Phil Johnson once said, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a Calvinist.” We must always remember that God is sovereign!

Having said all that, I’m also an historian by training. I know that it has been really bad before. Right before the reformation, there were dark times. God, in his sovereign mercy, gave us Luther and Calvin and Knox. The Great Depression and World War II were dark times, but God brought us through. These are dark times, and we can see them getting darker. But dark times are often needed to strengthen faith. God can always bring revival to America, if it is His will.

But, if the time has grown short, and the end is upon us, we should welcome it. Romans 8 tells us that all of creation looks forward to release from the curse of sin.

Either way, we abide until He comes. So, be of good cheer! Our times are in His hands
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