From This Point Forward
The Daily News: World Events Cause Concern
by David Jeremiah
In their attempt to set up a caliphate state, the radical Islamist group ISIS leaves a devastating trail of chaos and pain as they move across Iraq and surrounding nations -- destroying towns and families -- and killing those who reject conversion to their form of Islam. Tensions continue to rise between Russia and the Ukraine as the battle for Ukrainian sovereignty rages on. Israel continues to be bombarded daily with rockets being deployed from Gaza into Israeli towns and cities. Meanwhile a 6.2 earthquake struck the Central Indonesian island of Sulawesi sending residents running for their lives. In India and Pakistan, monsoon flooding strands tens of thousands of villagers, with a death toll of more than four hundred in the Kashmir area. Humanitarian organizations are reaching out to regions in Africa battling the deadly Ebola virus even as the death toll rises.
Sound like the evening news? Well, yes, but it also sounds a lot like Matthew 24, the passage in which our Lord, sitting on the Mount of Olives, predicted the future of world history and the end of the age.
I've stood on that same Mount of Olives overlooking the old city of Jerusalem. It's just across the Kidron Valley from the sealed Golden Gate, and the panorama is stunning with its fabulous view of the Temple Mount. But no Jewish temple stands there at this time, and the site is dominated by the Islamic Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. In Christ's day, however, the beautiful Second Temple was sitting there, arguably the most spectacular building in the world, a wonder of ancient times.
In Matthew 24, Jesus shocked His disciples by predicting: "I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another" (Matthew 24:2). Afterward, on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, they asked, "When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" The resulting message by Christ is the greatest sermon on the Second Coming ever preached, and the first thing He did was to state the general signs leading up to His return.
Now, I believe the signs in Matthew 24:4-14 actually represent a description of the first half of the tribulation period. But these trends and events are not going to suddenly appear full-blown when the Rapture comes. They're going to increasingly characterize these last days leading up to the Rapture of the Church, and they reverberate backward through time. Coming events cast shadows before them and, if we're alert, we can spot those shadows now. While we don't know the exact time of our Lord's return, I do believe we can know we are nearing the end times. And I believe we're seeing the fulfillment of Matthew 24 on the horizon today.
Jesus began in verses 4-5 by saying, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." Christ-impostors abound in our time. They don't all claim to be Jesus in name, but the trends are growing. Writing in The Minnesota Daily, Darren Bernard made some interesting observations about the current generation of Americans. "During the last four decades," he wrote, "scientific studies and surveys have suggested that young people are slowly abandoning organized religion. Today, fewer 18 to 25-year-olds believe in God, attend weekly church services, or identify with a mainstream Christian denomination than at any point in our nation’s history." 1 Many in this generation are actively seeking the meaning and purpose in life -- they want spiritual enlightenment -- but they're looking for it in false Christs.
Jesus went on in the next verse to warn of the increasing swells of "wars and rumors of war," nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom. I'm fascinated by the fact that after all these centuries, the spinning core of world conflict is still in the Middle East. Even as I write this article, the headlines of today's paper are filled with the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. War is continuing in Iraq; and the world is terrified by the possibility that Iran has nuclear capability.
Famine and Pestilence
Jesus went on to predict, "And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.” If you have access to the Internet, do a search for "earthquakes." You'll be amazed at the number of earthquakes occurring almost every week. The earth seems to be trembling as never before, and already this year major quakes have struck in countries around the world -- the most recent in Greece and Crete.
That's not all. I personally believe that the next great crisis in this world will be universal famine. Just ponder the population explosion. It took all of recorded history for the world to produce its first billion inhabitants around 1850. It took only eighty years to pass the two billion mark in 1930, another thirty-one years to reach three billion in 1961, and only fifteen years to add the fourth billion by 1976. You get the picture. And while some places around the world are experiencing cataclysmic flooding, others are experiencing ongoing drought. The combination of a growing population and devastated local food supplies often produces famine.
As the world grapples with those problems, yet another signpost is flashing red: persecution. Jesus said in verse 9, "They will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My Name's sake." In each of the world's Muslim-dominated nations, Christians are repressed and persecuted and martyred. In Communist nations like China, North Korea, and Cuba, the same is true. In other totalitarian lands, Christians are imprisoned, tortured, and killed. And in the democratic West, an increasingly visceral anti-Christian philosophy seeks to attack, thwart, intimidate, and marginalize the followers of Jesus Christ. Around the world, the Church is facing more active persecution right now than at any other time in her history.
Not surprisingly, all this makes for an increasingly violent world. Jesus predicted in verse 12, "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold."
Do you remember when doors were left unlocked, children played on the city sidewalks until bedtime, home security alarms were rare, and you checked your luggage at the airport and walked straight to the departing gate? Those times are gone forever. They've been lost in my lifetime, and I shudder to think what the next years will bring.
The Preaching of the Gospel
As evil increases in intensity, Christian influence is becoming weaker, and a lukewarm Church limps its way through our modern culture. However, the picture has one bright spot. More people are preaching the Gospel in more places to more people than ever before in history. Our Lord doesn't want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance. He intends for His Good News to be heard. When Jesus left earth, He had only twelve men preaching the Gospel. Now there are millions, and the Gospel is penetrating pockets of the globe hitherto unreached. Jesus predicted that the Gospel of His kingdom would be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations.
That's what we're seeking to do. All of us. Together.
These are exciting days! These are days when Israel is back in her land, the signposts are speeding by, and the angel is warming his lips on the trumpet. As we see these things coming to pass, it means the kingdom of Christ is drawing nearer. We can almost hear the countdown.
We're living in prophetic times and seeing prophecy fulfilled right before our eyes. It's time to look up, for our redemption draws nigh!
1mndaily.com/articles/2005/04/21/64279 (accessed April 22, 2005).