Don't Bury Your Head...Signs of the Times (Part I)
It’s an old cliché, the idea of burying one’s head in the sand, but one worth mentioning because of the times we’re living in...they are telling, but the interesting thing about it all is that things happening in our world today are things the Bible foretold millennia ago. To bury one’s head is to ignore something that is blatantly wrong, “unpleasant,” or dangerous around you that you refuse to deal with, hoping it will go away on its own. There are warning signs and danger signs going on all around us (“us” being the world at large) but what do they mean and what are they telling us? Are we burying our heads or are we paying close attention? Because of God's love for mankind, He warned us of things to come so that we could be prepared and that none of these things would take us by surprise. I chose the symbol of the ostrich because though an ostrich doesn’t bury it’s head in the sense that the cliché implies, the idea that it connotes is true. Though we may not know what the future holds for our lives individually (whether we'll marry, move to a new town, change careers, things of that sort), the Bible does tell us in a general sense what will happen to the world as we now know it, from the last days described in Matthew 24 to the end of time spoken of in the book of Revelation. If you’ve taken a look at the news lately, then you must know that something different is in the air. The systems of the world are changing. Chaos seems to abound. Earth's weather systems have gone amuck. Lawlessness is on the rise...a world without God is the call of action for some. Romans 8:22 says that the whole creation is groaning (i.e. together it is experiencing a common calamity) travailing in pain (like a woman laboring in agony to give birth), and it’s not only the creation that is groaning, but Christians who know that the time of our redemption is near (don’t worry...I'll explain this in an upcoming post), but just know that something new is on the horizon for these are the signs of the times.
So what can the Bible tell us about the times we’re living in? Did it dare venture to say what would happen at and near the end of time, and if so, how could any human agent that partook in writing the Bible have known about it? The answer to this is a resounding yes!!! It does speak of the times of the end (“end times” or eschatology as it is formally known) and though human instruments were employed to write about it, they wrote under God’s divine inspiration to reveal revelatory truths that they had no earthly, humanly possible way of knowing. God told us what will happen at the end of time before it happens to show that He truly does know all things, which speaks of His foreknowledge (His ability to know things in advance), yet, many have probably never even considered what the Bible has to say about the future because they have trouble believing what it says happened in the past. In fact, a passage found in 2 Peter 3 speaks about this...consider the following verse:
"3Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 2:3-9)
Here the Bible said that scoffers would come in the last days which is a proof in itself of fulfilled prophecy. These are people who are walking (i.e. leading a life) according to their own lusts (i.e. according to their own desires concerning living, but in this sense, it refers to forbidden desires), who mock at talk concerning the coming of Christ. These same people, according to verse 5, are wilfully ignorant of the story of creation and the Flood. A lot of people don’t believe the Bible recounts true history, i.e. they believe it cannot be trusted as a reliable historical source. To them, Noah’s Flood is a fairy tale or simply a local occurrence like the Black Sea Flood theory, so if they struggle to believe the Bible’s recollections of the past, then how can they believe what it says about the future? Again, make no mistake, God didn’t just declare what happened at the beginning of the Book, but He also declared what would happen at the end of it. In fact, this foretelling of future events is something that also characterizes God’s Word – it is prophetic. It speaks of history in advance showing the revelatory and prophetic nature of the Bible as it makes claims of things to come far in advance of their happening. God clearly talks about His ability to know future events in the book of Isaiah where He basically says that He tells about them before they happen so that when they happen, we would know that God's Word is true and sure. This can be found among other places in Isaiah 42:9, 46:9-10 and 48:3-6. Here in essence God says, "I’m going to tell you of future events before they come to pass to essentially help your unbelief. I will declare to you the end from the beginning (i.e. I will tell you what the end will be before it happens). "
Now enter what scientists call the “A” and “B” theories of time which essentially ask two things: does time continuously flow in one direction from one point to another like a river (the “A” theory), which is what we humans experience in the tale that is called our lives as one day flows into the next? These days become weeks, and the weeks become years as we constantly trudge ahead from the past, living in the present, heading into the future (unable to go back in time to the past and change anything). Or does every moment in time already exist, including the future (the “B” theory), which would seem to preclude a beginning? Has the future already happened and is the past still out there somewhere at a point in space that we could theoretically travel back to visit? I believe that both points may actually be correct based on God’s vantage point and ours. We as humans live in that one directional flow of time. Again, we cannot go back into the past and change anything that has happened and our vantage point here on Earth in the realm of time does not allow us to peer into the future; we can only deal with the present and the “now” moments of our lives. According to the Bible, God is eternal (living in eternity) and time is something that He created, yet, He can still interact in it. (Interestingly enough, though a side note, the Bible says that God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) implying that we are made of more than just our physical bodies, but that there is a part of us that is eternal that will live on forever in eternity.) Aside from God's foreknowledge and omniscience, I believe the “B” theory has to do with God’s vantage point outside of time. God can exist in time (though He’s not affected by it, He doesn’t age, it doesn’t place any constraints on Him) and has the ability to interact with His creation, but He also exists outside of it, so from His perspective, He can see every moment that has and will ever happen in this expanse called time from its beginning to its ending. In fact, everything that is going to take place has already happened as the Bible claims in several instances.
So let me blow your mind right now…when you read the book of Revelation, did you know that you are literally reading about events that have already happened, but have not yet transpired in time? We’re not reading what might be or what has already transpired in time (this type of thinking represents the “preterist” view as some people believe that the book of Revelation was already fulfilled in former times during the 1st century of the Roman empire or previous to that during the time of rule of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes). We are reading about what has already happened in time future (i.e. future history)...we are merely living out the time in between...we haven't caught up to the end yet. God has given us a playbook in a sense (for you sports enthusiasts out there) and He has even told us how these things would take shape so we would know when their implementation would be near, which ultimately points towards the time of Jesus Christ’s soon return. Yes, He did come in the past (that’s another blog in itself) but He also said that He would come again. These things are taking shape…let me tell you about them.
A day is coming when time will be no more, yet, before the end comes, the earth itself will experience some radical and catastrophic changes both environmentally, economically, in the religious realm, and politically. Yes, the systems of the world are changing. The world will find a cause to unite as one. Even as we speak, there is a greater and greater push for global governance (they’re already doing so…just look at the UN’s 2030 global agenda, at the various economic unions/blocks, trade and partnership agreements, etc.), for some feel that the problems of the world might take the collective minds of a global think tank which the Bible says will eventually be headed by one man. I’m not saying that the UN is that global governing body (though it could be), but that it represents the kind of operation of joint power that will take place in the days to come, but we can dabble about more on this in a future post.
Not only that, the Bible says that towards the end of time as we know it, that the world would become a cold, godless place where people would want nothing to do with God and instead would accept and pledge loyalty to a world system whose laws will consist of everything that opposes Him. This is antichrist ideology at its finest. This is why its leader is considered the antichrist, which isn’t his name per say but what he stands for (his title) because he is the “lawless one” - the one who opposes and stands in the place of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 8-12). He the world will accept because he embraces everything Biblically unlawful while Jesus the world (speaking of the sea of humanity) rejects because the way that Christ calls for is narrow.
Let’s go a little deeper with this. I’m going to move out of the way now and let Jesus speak for Himself because His Disciples asked Him about these very things saying “when shall these things be…what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world [age]?” (Matthew 24:3). Before this, Jesus Himself made a prediction about the Temple. At that time it was known as the Second Temple built by Jewish exiles returning from Babylon under a decree by Cyrus the Great to rebuild Jerusalem and its former temple. Both were destroyed during the Babylonian conquest of King Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. The first temple was built by King Solomon in the year 966 BC; the Second Temple was completed during the reign of Darius the Great. Herod the Great enhanced the Second Temple tremendously as one of his many elaborate building projects throughout Judea. At any rate, this Temple that they frequented and could look upon Jesus said, would one day be destroyed “not one stone would be left upon another” (Matthew 24:2). In the year AD 70, this very prophecy was fulfilled as Titus finishing off a siege begun by his father Emperor Vespasian would end with the literal destruction of the Jewish Temple and Jerusalem for that matter during the Jewish-Roman War (66-70 AD). One part of that victory was literally captured and depicted on stone...preserved for us to this day on the Arch of Titus showing the spoils of the war, namely Temple artifacts, being carried off (see below). Even the destruction of the Second Temple has some future prophetic significance.
Going on to Jesus' response to the signs of His coming and of the end of the age, Jesus first warned them to pay attention (“take heed”) not to let any one deceive them because many would come in His name saying that they were Christ and that they would deceive a lot of people (these are known as false christs and we have heard and read about them frequently on the news) (Matthew 24:4-5). Jesus said that we would hear of “wars and rumours of wars” but not to be alarmed because all these things must happen but that the end even at that point was not yet (Matthew 24:6) for there would be more to come. He said that nation would rise against nation (there would be racial and ethnic tensions and wars). How many news stories have we seen this year alone about racial conflicts between law enforcement and the public? They have escalated tremendously, but Jesus said that this would be. Another sign of the times (now you can understand why that phrase is so often used) is that kingdom would go against kingdom (the kings or heads of state, that is of many kingdoms or nations, the realms under their disposal as we know them today) would rise in conflict against one another, that there would be famine (food shortages), and pestilences (diseases such as the various ebola viruses that have come out of the Ebola region, epidemics and pandemics), and earthquakes throughout the world (Matthew 24:7). In verse 8 of that same chapter Jesus warned that “All these are the beginning of sorrows.” If these are just the beginnings of things to come, of global suffering and troubles, then what further calamities await the world?
Next, Jesus spoke of coming persecution to Christians saying that some would be delivered for affliction and be killed, and that Christians would be hated for bearing His namesake, that is, for daring to call themselves Christ followers (Matthew 24:9). How many news stories have we heard in the past year and a half speaking of Christians in the Middle East being beheaded, whole communities wiped out for bearing the name of Christ, refusing to renounce their faith in Him? And again, people hate us if we dare say that we are Christians or attempt to stand up for Christian values dismissing us as ignorant, intolerant, narrow-minded, bigoted…you name it.
This next one is interesting. Jesus said that many would be “offended” which means that something was put in one’s way, an impediment as Strong’s concordance puts it, that caused them to stumble or fall and distrust and desert one whom they once trusted and obeyed, one that they should have kept trusting. Something would happen to cause them to “fall away” (Matthew 24:10). This is another major sign of the times, which is elaborated on further in 2 Thessalonians 2. Here Paul, the writer of the Thessalonian letters, tells us as he has just described what the return of Christ for His bride the Church would look like (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), that Christ’s coming would not happen until this among other events first took place. Interestingly enough, it is referred to as the “falling away” or better known as the great Apostasy. It refers to a defection from or desertion of the Faith (the Christian Faith). Many have turned away from the Faith they once held. They may have been raised in church and some were even pastoring churches, or involved in church ministry, but they reached a point where their faith in Christ was lost and they no longer began to believe in Him or the things they were once taught. It’s happening by the groves…go on the web and look up the “blasphemy challenge”…do any internet search and you will see exactly what I’m talking about here. For a lot of people, if it wasn’t a major disappointment that God allowed to transpire in their lives (the loss of a loved one, disease and suffering throughout the world, etc.), or some other reason which they hold in their hearts, then it was the teachings of science (of what it has proven true or “dispelled”) that caused them to be “offended,” that have led them away from the Bible, and ultimately their relationship with Jesus Christ because if the Bible can’t be trusted, then why should they believe anything it has to say about salvation or the need for a Savior or anything else that it entails? And those scoffers that I mentioned earlier, even they are helping to fulfill prophecy because their various mockings and tauntings are occurring just as the Bible said that they would.
Science as wonderful as it is continuously engages in this idea of offering an alternative to the need for a supernatural Creator or any type of involvement that He had for that matter concerning the existence of the universe and life as we know it. From its origin-of-life theories to Darwinian evolution all championing naturalism, scientific ideas disconnect the supernatural God of the Bible from His claims of creation. I could go on and on about this, but I just wanted to make this point that many are being “offended” as Jesus said would happen, many have fallen away, and undoubtedly there will be more to do so as the faith that people have are being tested everywhere against what science claims it continually proves as true to trials and troubles that fall into our lives individually – either these things will push us closer to God or they will draw us away from Him completely as I shared in my last post. I truly believe that our faith as a whole is being tested and shaken – where will true faith lie and stand when this is all done. All of this I believe is preparing us for the coming of the Lord.
I’m going to end the blog post at this point, but do not fear as I will continue to expound on this topic and as many of its intricacies as I can cover because there’s just too much to try to squeeze in one post. My intent is to be as specific as possible concerning these things so that you can see for yourself how divinely inspired the Bible truly is and that you can be prepared and as knowledgeable about the things going on in our world. It’s going to be interesting…it’s going to be awesome and I hope you’ll stay tuned!!