An Orthodox Jewish rabbi recently wrote about his understanding of where society would be positioned just before the coming of the Messiah. The rabbi’s words have the ring of an Old Testament prophet.
“Just before the Messiah comes, humanity…will be in the process of a steady degeneration and will suffer numerous travails; terrible events will follow each other in quick succession; truth will be in short supply; there will be skyrocketing inflation and people won’t be able to afford even the necessities; the public will sneer at scholarship; piety will be regarded with disgust; wise people will be few and far between, and the rest of us will be bleary-eyed from grief.…Chutzpah will soar to new heights; the young will be impudent to their elders, and elders will have to stand up before their juniors; sons will have no shame before their fathers; daughters will talk back to their mothers and daughters-in-law to their mothers-in-law; those turning away from wicked behavior will be regarded as demented; kinfolk will despise each other; Jews will turn on each other without good cause and with unwarranted ferocity.”
The rabbi’s observations, or lamentations, as the case may be, are familiar to Christians who, first, take the message of the Bible seriously and, second, are able to read the writing on the wall. Chapter 1 of the Book of Romans speaks in vivid terms of conditions common to degenerating Gentile societies. The fact that the words were penned some two thousand years ago only increases the force of the message. Unfortunately, the signs of degeneration are epidemic in America and in much of the Western world at the present time.
In the words of the apostle, the failure to acknowledge God, give Him His place, and be thankful, coupled with the demand for changes that omit God or the laws He established for the greater good, will always reap catastrophic consequences. In summary, the collective course of such an age will be directed by those “Who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:25). The divine response will be to give them over to what they want—to wallow in their own devices. In the end, they will self-destruct. It is here that the words of the Jewish rabbi quoted above intersect with the warnings of the apostle.
There is, of course, a terminal phase of the process. It will come in the last days—the days prior to the personal intervention of the Messiah. But there will be a difference because the final Tribulation as described by Jesus will be unparalleled in its ferocity. He said, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Mt. 24:21).
At this writing, we are still reeling from the stunning events a few months ago in Littleton, Colorado. No one seems to understand why children become killers, and many parents now sleep uneasy in their beds thinking they might be victims of their own offspring. The specter of bombed-out buildings, shattered bodies in the streets, and shivering columns of displaced people careens across our television screens nightly. Confusion reigns over just who the good guys and the bad guys are in modern non-war military conflicts. Our police are routinely put on trial for doing a job few people appreciate, while the well-heeled, just as routinely it seems, demonstrate that in their cases the “long arm of the law” is frequently no arm at all. And, in the midst of it all, we wait. From a host of rogue nations and scruffy kill-for-thrill cadres come promises—promises that say “When you least expect it, terror will be on your doorstep.”
So, are we a people who are running scared? There’s no doubt about it. Will the answers come from focus groups, grief counselors, political programs, or more promises by social manipulators? Not a chance. Is there an answer at all? Yes, but most would rather busy themselves looking for right answers in wrong places. Perhaps this is true because they don’t know any better. If so, woe betide the next generation that will be even farther removed from the true source of the solution.
Not long ago, I participated in the graduation exercises of a well-known Christian college. During the program, an award was presented to a professor whose family came to America from China years ago. As his achievements were enumerated, I was deeply impressed by what this man had accomplished in his life. He had, I thought, much that he could, with justification, be proud of. His response to the award and its accompanying accolades was brief but extremely impressive. “I am,” he said, “only a sinner saved by grace, and all that this award represents is a tribute to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the Old Testament, Israel was repeatedly called on to return to the God who had created and sustained them. That word return was the key. Where was the truth, the tranquillity, the guidance they needed? Right where they had left it. It always is.
It is true that sinners saved by grace will inevitably be scoffed at, scorned, and repudiated by the wise of this world. But be assured that while the scoffers are living out the dire predictions of the rabbi, those scorned will be experiencing the best that is yet to come.