In the Last Days
Read the End of the Story
Why is everybody so
surprised? That's what I don't understand. The headlines in the newspapers say
CRIME ON A RAMPAGE! or DRUG USE CLIMBS! or FAMOUS PREACHER FOUND GUILTY!.
The churches are
torn asunder with reports of doctrinal division, moral compromise, and general
apostasy. You don't need to guess what everybody's going to be talking about at
the next social gathering. They'll be talking about how bad everything is.
And it is bad. No argument there.
The environment is
stifling itself with pollution. Crime is on a non-stop rocket to infinity.
Politicians are being exposed for their greed; sports stars are being exposed
for their compromises; business leaders await trial for taking advantage of
"inside" information. Women are legally killing unborn children.
Divorce rates spiral. Homosexuality becomes an "acceptable
lifestyle". And on and on it goes.
abound. Tornados, earthquakes, hailstorms, and floods are becoming the order of
the day. Record heat. Record cold. Record snow. It is as though both man and
the elements are out of control. And where is the church amidst all this
confusion? For the most part, it appears to be on the sidelines, wringing it's
hands, preaching sermons, and writing books about the problem. We're
overwhelmed with the devastation about us. And we ought to be ashamed. Oh, it's
all right to be disgusted by the sin. But we ought not to be so surprised at
We, of all people,
ought to have expected it. We've read the last chapter of the book.. We've seen
the end of the movie.
Now, I'm one of
those people who loves to read the first chapter of a novel, skim a couple of
chapters so it'll look official, and then sneak over to the last chapter to see
how it all came out. It seems like such a waste of time to spend all that time
while the author prolongs our misery, so he can get in enough pages to justify
charging $12.95 for the book. I want to know how it's all going to end. And I
want to know now.
God seemed to understand people like me. He seemed
to expect some of us at least to want to flip to the last chapter and see how
it will all turn out. So many educators and so many theologians are saying:
"It'll all turn out okay. Things are getting better". And they point
to the thawing of the cold war as an example. The thawing of the cold war is a
sign that the end is at hand, but not that things are getting better. God knows
it's not going to get better. And for those who "have ears to hear"
He has clearly pronounced the outcome. No surprises. He simply told it like it
will be. Why we are so surprised, then, is not clear. Either we don't want to
believe it, or we've never read it. But make no mistake about it, this old
world is not getting better, and it never will. The battle is nearing its
conclusion, and the enemy, already pronounced the loser, is screaming and
clawing with every ounce of evil energy he possesses.
The devil can hear
the thundering hoof beats of the King's army on the horizon. He can envision the
sheer horror of hell. And he can imagine what it will be like to be chained to
the tortures of despair while the Living God sets up His Kingdom at last. He
knows, and we ought to know the end is at hand, and the answer isn't to
be found in the goodness of man.
The answer is to be found in the Scriptures. There,
in vivid language, the Living God has painted a portrait of what life will be
like just before the trumpet blast; just before the curtain comes down on the
weary actors who stand on stage in the drama of life. And He, in no uncertain
terms, has told us a) not to be surprised, and b) not to be afraid.
The last chapter's already been written! And the
Apostle Paul wanted to make sure that the Christians of his day, and those of
us who stand on the threshold of the end times understood as well. And he
didn't focus strictly on how bad the world would become as the program of life
ends and the credits pour across the screen. He had a lot to say about what the
church would be like in those closing days of history.
In I Timothy,
chapter four, where we left off in our last study, Paul addresses just that
issue. Here are the Apostle's words:
Paul is saying
"in latter days, some will depart from the faith." They will listen
to false doctrines. So that's our subject for this study, and here's our title
“In the Last Days”
I- Read The End of The
II- The World Runs Its
III- The Church Runs
IV- The Happiest Ending
The World Runs Its Course
Now the phrase used
here (latter days) speaks not only of the final days of history, but also of
all time in the future. But as we shall see as we work our way through
Scripture, the seeds that infested the early church would only spread like
cancer as the years progressed, and in the last days, things would "wax
worse and worse."
It had already begun. The Gnostics, who were
spreading heresy throughout the Ephesian church, believed that spirit was
altogether good, and matter was altogether bad. This had surfaced already in
two horrible doctrines. One was that since food was matter, food was bad, so as
much as possible, one should abstain from eating. (I never would have made it
in the Ephesian church). The legalists came along behind them, and though they
didn't think all food was bad, they defined certain foods as evil, and thus had
a long list of what the spiritual giant of the day could and couldn't have at
Wendy's. The second error was that if the body was evil, then any attempt to
satisfy the body was evil, and so they were forbidding people to marry.
They were men who
weren't listening to Truth. Their consciences had been "seared" or
"cauterized" with a hot iron. They were dead to the Word of God and
to the Spirit of God, but they were teaching truth as though they had some
"new theology" that everyone before them had missed. They were the
legalists of their day...defining spirituality by what a man did, rather than
by who a man was.
Two issues are
1) the gradual
deterioration of the church, and
2) the final state of
society and the church just prior to Christ's return.
The thing we
Christians would rather talk about is how rotten society is. It's the perfect
attention-getter for sermon material, and it allows us to enter into our
"doom and gloom" mode which focuses on the advances Satan is making
in our world, rather than on the responsibilities we have in the light of the
world that is to come. Paul wrote in Colossians 3, some amazing words.
Paraphrased in the Living Bible, it reads like this:
2 Let Heaven
fill your thoughts; don't spend your time worrying about things down here.
We aren't called to
be so heavenly minded that we're no earthly good, but we are called to have our
affections so glued to eternity, that to waste our time murmuring about the
state of the Union would seem superfluous, especially since God already told us
it would go downhill.
In II Timothy 3,
Paul wrote specifically about the last days, and he described our society so
perfectly, we don't even need to read the newspapers; we only need to read the
Bible to know what is happening and what is about to happen. It reads like
1 This know
also, that in the last days, perilous times shall come.
He goes on to
describe those "perilous times". Let's read it paraphrased again from
"The Living Bible". It seems true to the original text, and much
easier to understand:
People will love
only themselves and their money, they will be proud and boastful, sneering at
God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad. They
will be hardhearted and never give in to others; they will be constant liars
and troublemakers and will think nothing of immorality. They will be rough and
cruel, and sneer at those who try to be good. They will betray their friends;
they will be hotheaded, puffed up with pride, and prefer good times to
worshiping God. They will go to church, yes, but they won't really believe
anything they hear.
This is what fallen
man will look like just before Jesus comes again. The pseudo morality that had
come to mankind as a side effect of the Christian church's presence on planet
earth will have given way to reality. People will do their own thing. Authority
will be sneered at. Moral standards will degenerate until "if it feels
good, do it" prevails. It'll be every man for himself, and people will
prefer living it up to living right. Churches will be full, but not of
believers. And so it goes. And so it is... in our generation.
That's how man will
look at the end of the age... He will live like the fallen, degenerate creature
he is. And how will society itself look? And what will God be doing to the
elements? Matthew 24 gives us a preview:
3 And as He sat
upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, ‘Tell
us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and
of the end of the world?’
4 And Jesus
answered and said unto them, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall
come in my name saying, ‘I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And ye shall
hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye not be troubled: for all these
things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation
shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be
famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.
11 And many
false prophets shall rise, and deceive many.
12 And because
iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
Not a pretty sight.
Just prior to Christ's return, here's what the world will look like. There will
be "prophets" or religious leaders arising from everywhere saying
they are Christ, or they have a word from God no one else has, or they have
come with some special dispensation from God. And these cults will attract
Little wars will be
breaking out everywhere. Nations will be talking peace but thinking war. The
Mideast, we learn in other places will be a veritable hot bed of military
activity. Satan will pretend to want peace, but there can be no peace until
will abound. Food shortages, outbreaks of seemingly incurable diseases, and
earthquakes will begin to shake the foundations of the world in places and in
intensities never felt before. Sin will dominate the world. There will be such
an amoral society, that even Christians will became apathetic and
And so it shall be
just prior to the Lord's return. I guess the key is not that things are so bad
in our generation. The key is why are we Christians so perplexed? Why do we
scurry about with such long faces as though the universe was out of control,
and God must have misread the future? Is there one single thing present in our
society today that is not an exact fulfillment of Scriptural prophecy? Did God
misread what man would be like when he would be given the years and the freedom
and the prosperity we have? I defy you to find one thing that is happening
today that God did not expect and even warn us of? Israel's return as a nation?
The bitter conflict in the Mideast? The sudden desire for peace of the godless
nations in the Far East? The outbreak of aids? The legalization of abortion?
The rise and fall of preachers who claim to have the answers but who preach a
gospel that is less than the real gospel? The seemingly inexplicable changes in
the weather? The rise of "natural" disasters? The greed? The
immorality? A nation filled with churches filled with people who have no hope?
Take your pick.
Read Newsweek or read the Bible. One reports the news, the other predicts the
news. And the one that predicts it is more accurate the one that reports it;
because it tells us where it's all leading. The weekly magazines don't have the
slightest idea where we're headed. They think there are man-made solutions to
all these problems, when God has told us man is the problem.
So the state of the
world is as it should be. Man left to his own devices has never created
anything different. If you thought that man was going to get better and better
and society was going to get better and better until Utopia came to planet
Earth, you've been reading someone else's Bible. In the last days, perilous
times will come.
The Church Runs Aground
And where is the
true church amidst all this decline? Where are the born-again ones who have the
trumpet to blow and the truth to proclaim? According to our passage in I
Timothy, they are wrapped up in demonic doctrines that focus on this life
rather than the life to come. They are bound up in creating new forms of
legalism, all in the name of freedom. They are teaching moral purity, but their
own consciences, filled with the garbage of their day, have been seared with a
hot iron until the standards of Scripture have been redefined to be less
offensive to the "freewheeling" society they live in.
According to Jude
verses 17-19, these last days would be filled with dissension and division
within the true church. Separatists who claim they have the only answer will
scoff and deride the rest of Christ's body and unity will not exist at all.
And according to II
Peter, chapter 3, perhaps the greatest sin of all will characterize even the
true believers. They will lose sight of Christ's coming and begin to preach and
to teach as though Christ did die for our sins, but the focus of our lives is
on the here and now because we're not sure if the then is ever coming. Peter
1 This second
epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds
by way of remembrance:
2 That ye may be
mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the
commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:
3 Knowing this
first, that there shall come in the last days, scoffers, walking after their
4 And saying,
Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fells asleep, all
things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
Peter is opening
the curtains of the future and walking into the "Christian" community
in the last days. He visits seminaries, walks in on great preachers, reads
books written by Christian authors, and listens to Christian radio. He is
astonished. Where is the promise of His coming? These men, who are the voice of
their day, rarely, if ever speak of Christ's return. Heaven is barely
described. Eternity is only a vague uncertainty mentioned at funerals and sung
about in hymns. But the average person who calls himself a Christian doesn't
even understand if or how the Lord will return.
We live in a world
where the people who know God intimately, personally, experientially, and
scripturally still don't talk about Heaven as though it's real, and still don't
anticipate the Lord's Coming with any more intensity than the Super Bowl, (if
they anticipate it at all).
The Happiest Ending of All
Peter says it's a
choice. We can be caught up in the gloom and doom of the age in which we live
and can spend our time weeping over the state of the Union, or we can look up!
The choice is ours. The passage goes on (II Peter 3:5),
5 For 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:
6 Whereby the
world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
7 But 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.
8 But, 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.
9 The 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.
"This they are
willingly ignorant of." They choose to believe that creation didn't happen
the way God said it would. They choose to willingly make light of the flood that
destroyed the world. They choose to be ignorant of the fact that God's
timetable is not the same as ours; that with Him it's only been a day or two in
the light of eternity since Jesus returned to the Father and promised to come
Ah, but what they
are missing is the reason He has not returned. He has not returned
because His love is so deep, His mercy so rich, His grace so abundant, He does
not want any to perish... so He waits, and He waits, and He waits.
They're missing it!
Some of us are missing it! We've overlooked the end of the story! We're all
caught up in the grief and the apostasy and the weariness of the battle, and
we've forgotten this story has the happiest ending of all. And it isn't
fiction. It's written by the hand of the same God who gave us such notable
stories as "The Prophecy of Isaiah", "The Promises of
Daniel", and the "Witness of Jeremiah". This same author, the
Holy Spirit of God has written the ending in bold, black letters across the
entirety of His Word, and we who live in the most exciting age in history, act
as though either He never wrote it; or it might not be true. Let's let Peter
finish his discourse:
10 But the day
of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall
pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,
the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Listen to the Word
of the Lord. The "Day of the Lord" will come. It will come like a
"thief in the night". Just when we are least expecting it, it will
happen. God hasn't forgotten. Jesus isn't lost somewhere in the galaxies trying
to find planet earth. God didn't change His mind and decide it wasn't worth it.
So what ought we to be doing? Worrying about the state of the economy? Fretting
about the political situation in Washington? Complaining about the price of
groceries? Railing at the inequities of the age? Peter goes on:
11 Seeing then that all these things shall be
dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and
12 Looking for
and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on
fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein
Because of what we
know, two things ought to be happening; ...two glorious things.
1- We ought to
be motivated to holiness.
One thing that
happens when believers downplay the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the
age is that we begin to compromise with the matter of holiness. We begin to
alter God's standards, first ever so slightly, then more boldly. Like children
who think they can get by with anything they want, because they know their
parents will be gone for a week, we do things and think things and want things
that break the heart of God.
If those kids only
realized, "mom and dad may return at any time", their whole outlook
would be different. Peter is saying, "what manner of persons ought we to
be? Filled with holiness... the essence of godliness..." that's what we
ought to be like. Verse 14 concludes,
that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace,
without spot, and blameless.
Jesus is coming
soon! It ought to be a motivation for holiness.
2- It ought to
be a motivation for expectancy.
and longing for and expectantly praying for" that day to come at any time.
First, the rapture, then His Coming, Then His reigning. A new heavens! A new
earth! That's our hope! That's our story! That's His Glory! Jesus is coming
again! This world we fret so much about is passing away. In a split second it
will be gone. The stock market will burn up. The football stadium will burn up.
The TV station will burn up. The church house will burn up. That new house will
burn up. Everything temporal we are living for or trusting in will burn up.
Because Jesus is coming again.
Sure, the world is
a mess. No argument there. The church is a mess. No argument there. But why are
we so surprised? Why do we walk around with long faces as though we have no
hope? We've read the last chapter! We've read the end of the book! We know how
it all turns out!
Yes, in the last
days, perilous times will come. Don't be astonished. It's supposed to be this
way. Ah, but just after those perilous times, Jesus will come. That makes this
the most exciting time in history. By God's grace, let's act like it.