Tuning in on the Last Days
A dentist’s chair is not an ideal place for a Bible prophecy conference. A mouthful of dental paraphernalia reduces a patient’s response to grunts and a rolling of the eyes, severely limiting the ability to answer questions from the man in charge of repairs. And for someone like me, who spends a considerable portion of his life steeped in subjects related to end-times events and is stocked up on facts and opinions, it is an excruciating exercise.
But it does have its rewards. In this instance, compensation came in the form of an observation by my dentist, a practitioner who is competent in his profession and, at the same time, attuned to contemporary issues.
“With all that we’re seeing today,” he asked, “is it safe to say that we are living in the last days?”
The question itself was not unusual. What perked my attention is the frequency with which it is being asked these days. Without a doubt, more believers in North America and the West feel increasingly shortchanged by the lack of teaching on the subject coming from their churches and other theological sources of information.
Although we are certainly living in the last days, we cannot determine with any certainty how far into the last days we are. What we can see are markers or, if you will, trends that identify precursors of the end-times scenario laid down in the Scriptures. A serious look at where events are taking us is intensely practical and, in fact, an inescapable necessity if believers are to be prepared to respond biblically and spiritually to the challenges of our time. We can no longer afford the wishful thinking that replaces reality with the mood of the moment, which ignores facts and creates a false sense of security and affluent continuity.
Defining the Source
No one can successfully dispute the fact that biblical inerrancy and traditional Christian values are under attack. The level of unrestrained and relentless mockery, cynicism, and threatened or actual physical assaults on believers and their property has escalated remarkably. In some societies, it has become fashion-able to persecute Christians and practice a refurbished paganism that glorifies unrestrained, secularized worship.
Unfortunately, the church has not been immune to fallout from this retreat into the void of uncertainty that blatantly repudiates the truth emanating from the only reliable source available to us: the Word of God. A case in point is prophetic teaching, fast becoming a rarity in many circles. In view of current national and international affairs, this failing can hardly be ignored. Biblical prophecy, given by divine revelation, is the one and only critically reliable link between the present and future. It enlightens us regarding applicable priorities for the here and now, while providing understanding of what lies ahead. We should have learned by now that there is no certain sound coming from the voices of “experts” in nearly any field one cares to mention.
For example, when petroleum prices soared and people still fortunate enough to have jobs wondered how they were going to be able to drive to work, experts said, “Get used to it. Gasoline prices will never come down. We’re finally approaching what people pay in other parts of the world, and that’s the way it will stay.” Well, prices did come down; no one, not even the experts, accurately predicted the future.
Of more profound significance were the failures of the foreign affairs prognosticators. On Christmas day in 1991, after 70 years of grinding oppression and 50 years of bitter Cold War with the West, the Hammer and Sickle flag of the Soviet Union was lowered over the Kremlin. Some experts enthusiastically proclaimed that the new Russia would be governed by leaders yearning for freedom and friendship with their Western benefactors. Democracy was the wave of the future, they said. Well, they were wrong. When the staggering colossus regained its balance under Vladimir Putin, imperialism returned; and a refashioned Cold War resumed.
A myriad of other examples could be cited, verifying the often costly inability of humans to chart the future. But we do have an accurate interpreter of what is to come—a fuser of prophecy and history that is certain to be correct. For that clarity of purpose and design, we must turn our attention to the Bible and the markers laid down for us there.
Signs of the Times
Several current trends provide insight into how far into the end-times we have progressed.
Image Over Substance. Among the great maladies of our day is aggressive, superficial decision-making based on appearance rather than proven substance. This condition has been largely fostered by television and its capacity to create the illusion of substance through attractive images. In many respects, we are, therefore, becoming image-oriented people with short, sound bite-length attention spans.
The culmination of this process relates to the description of the Antichrist in Revelation 13 and other passages. He is described as adored, eloquent, consumed by the lust for power, and obsessed with presenting himself as a new messiah:
“Who is like the beast [Antichrist]?”…And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him . . . who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (Rev. 13:4–5, 7–8; 2 Th. 2:4).
An image will be crafted of this final dictator, and the world will be commanded to bow before it in worship. This is the classic exhibition of the supreme satanic embodiment of absolute narcissism that millions shall willingly buy into.
The Plunge Into Apostasy. “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day [the Lord’s Second Advent] will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Th. 2:3).
Preparation for the entrance of the Antichrist is a “falling away” from the true faith. This is a form of apostasy, a condition in which people who have the right information about God and His truth turn from it in denial and repudiation.
Today the world is moving faster than ever away from orthodox Christianity into a merger with all forms of religions and cults under, as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia expressed last year, the banner of belief in “one God.” This position is nothing more than retreaded, institutionalized polytheism. And at the core of this system of inclusion and denial are (1) vigorous rejection of the gospel and (2) militant suppression of all individuals and groups committed to proclaiming it, as mandated in Jesus’ Great Commission to His church. The evidence is mounting that we are moving toward a one-world religion—minus, of course, the true and living God. Therefore, one can only conclude that we are moving in the direction of prophesied apostasy.
Materialistic Madness. Shock waves over recently uncovered corruption, deception, and thievery in the world of high finance are still reverberating in the global markets. Greed, both corporate and individual, has become the name of the game; and few seem to understand why. It surprised me when a television commentator actually put his finger on the problem. Saying he was by no stretch a preacher, he nevertheless felt he had to admit that this culture’s precipitous bankruptcy of moral values is the prime underlying factor in the illicit cash grab of the greedy. An often-heard exclamation is the apostle Paul’s statement, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).
The knockout blow for the material end-times world is described in Revelation 18 when “Babylon the great,” the center and symbol of a godless global system, experiences the full cup of God’s wrath: “For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (v. 5).
Interestingly, those most affected by the collapse of their corrupt system are called the “merchants of the earth” who “will weep and mourn over her [Babylon]. The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you….The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing” (vv. 11, 14–15).
Payday is coming for the wholesale sellout to materialism, and the world is systematically moving in that direction.
Suppression of Israel. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines suppression as “the conscious intentional exclusion from consciousness of a thought or feeling.”
The bad intentions of the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people couldn’t be more clearly stated outside of holy writ. The fondest desire of jihadist fanatics and their fellow travelers is to reduce Israel to a mere stain on the memory of Middle Eastern history. That is why they have eradicated Israel from all Arab and Palestinian maps. Revisionist fabricators of history delight in claiming there never was a Holocaust, Jews never existed in significant numbers in Israel, no Jewish Temples ever stood on Mount Moriah, and no modern Jewish state should exist. In other words, Israel to them is a phantom creation that is fit only to be destroyed and then forgotten.
Unfortunately, tiny Israel’s struggle for survival will continue and accelerate until the final chapter is written: “I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:2).
But the sinister ambitions of the nations that rage against God, His city, and the Jewish people will not be realized: “Then the Lᴏʀᴅ will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle” (v. 3).
These snapshots of prophecy are markers in the progression toward the final days leading to the consummation of the age. But rather than becoming sources of depression and fear, they stand as implements of discernment and assurance that there is an end in sight to the sinful excesses befouling the global landscape. Furthermore, we are given this information by a God who pledges not to afflict us with ignorance about our times or our future.
Is the finish line in sight? Are we actually in the last days? In a broad sense, every day could be the last day of the last days before we hear the call that will take us into God’s presence. Consequently, we are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Ti. 2:13).
Do I personally believe we are living in the last days? Yes, and I am convinced that we are deep into them. That conviction comes from observing the rapidly developing trends that correspond to what the prophetic Word teaches us. No, we do not know the day or hour; but we do have His promises and the evidence at hand. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).