Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Are We Living In The Last Days

We have to be careful not to be guilty of what Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for—what one might call the Red Sky Syndrome. If you recall, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they had an ability to predict the weather. They could look at the sky, and if it was red at night, they would say, "Sailor's delight." And if it was red in the morning, they would say, "Sailors take warning." But they missed the signs of the times, and they missed the first advent of Christ. They missed the coming of the Messiah right in their midst in spite of the fact that a host of biblical prophecies heralded the appearance of Jesus on the scene—and Jesus rebuked them for it.

When somebody asks me, "Are we in the last days?" I would think that what they mean is, "Are we in the time prior to the Rapture of the Church or the second coming of Jesus Christ?" These are two distinct events.

You cannot just say yes or no. So I will say, "Yes, and I don't know."

We have been in the last days since the first advent of Christ. And so the Scriptures tell us that we are to be living in the spirit of diligence and of vigilance from the time that Jesus departed this planet in clouds of glory until he returns. But when people ask me, "Are we living in the last days?" I think they are asking if we "Are we living in the last minutes of the last hour of the last day?"

So the question is, "Do I think that the return of Jesus is close; is it on the horizon?"

When Luther went through all of the turbulent upheaval of the Christian church in the sixteenth century, he was convinced that the fragmentation of the church at that time was heralding the return of Jesus. But Luther was wrong in that respect

Jonathan Edwards, living in the middle of the eighteenth century, shortly before this nation was formed as a republic, reflected on the way in which religion had declined from 1620 to 1750. He was convinced that the world was going to the dogs and that it was running out of time, that Jesus was going to come any minute. Edwards, too, was wrong.

I can say without a doubt, however, that we're about 450 years closer to it than Luther was and 235 years closer to it than Edwards was. There is a lot of "Stuff" going on in the world todayand that tells me a couple of things.
  • First, in the days that we are living as Christians, we need to spending time in God's Word develpoping our personal relationship with Him; making sure our house is in order. 
  • Second, we need to be rebuilding walls that have been torn down; making sure God's House is in order. 
As Nehemiah told those rebuilding the walls, to work with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. That would be equal to us reading the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Time of Jacob's Trouble

As we look around us, we realize that the times we are living are not like any other before. Could we be nearing "the time of Jacob's trouble."

"The time of Jacob's trouble" is a quote from Jeremiah 30:7 which says, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it" (KJV).

In verses 3 & 4 of Jeremiah 30, we find that the Lord is speaking to the prophet and  promises that one day in the future, He will bring both Judah and Israel back to the land that He had promised their forefathers. Verse 5 describes a time of great fear and trembling. Verse 6 describes this time in a way that pictures men going through the pains of childbirth, again indicating a time of fear and pain. But there is hope for Judah and Israel, for the Lord promises He will save Jacob out of this time of great distress (30:7).

In Jeremiah 30:10-11 the Lord says, “‘I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid. I am with you and will save you,’ declares the LORD.”

The Lord says He will destroy the nations who held Judah and Israel in captivity, but will not destroy Jacob completely. Our Lord describes that time as a time of discipline for Jacob. He says of Jacob, “Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.”

It also says "that day is great, so that none is like it.”  This best fits the description of the period of the tribulation. This is an unparalleled time; there will never be another like it. Jeremiah 30:6 depicts a man going through the pains of childbirth. This is paralleled by other passages that liken the tribulation to birth pains.

In Matthew 24:6-8, Jesus stated that the appearance of false christs, wars and rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes are "the beginning of birth pains." We know this will be during the first half of the tribulation because the appearance of the beast/antichrist occurs at the midpoint of the tribulation (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 9:27; Revelation 13).

Paul also described the tribulation as birth pains in 1 Thessalonians 5:3, "While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape." This event follows the rapture and the removal of the Church, in 4:13-18. In 5:9, Paul reemphasizes the absence of the Church from this time period by saying, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." The wrath spoken of here is God's judgment on the unbelieving world and His discipline of Israel during the tribulation.

These birth pains are described in detail in Revelation 6-12, birth pains which are the Lord's discipline designed to bring Israel back to Him.

For those who have received Christ as Savior from sin, the time of Jacob's trouble is something for which we should praise the Lord, for it is His demonstrating that He keeps His promises. Just as He has promised us eternal life through Christ our Lord, He also will fulfill His promises of land, seed, and blessing that He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the form of covenants by giving those things to their physical descendants. But before He fulfills these promises, He will lovingly but firmly discipline the nation so that they return to Him.