Is It Just Me or Are Things Getting Worse?
One of the most exciting discoveries young children make as they learn to draw is the use of perspective. For example, a sheet of paper is two–dimensional—it has width and length, but no depth. So how do you draw a three–dimensional object, like a large building or railroad tracks receding into the distance, in a two–dimensional medium? By using perspective. Railroad tracks grow closer and closer together as they recede into the distance until they appear to merge together. And the height of a building is shorter in the background than it is in the foreground. Perspective changes everything; it adds a whole new way of seeing.
But nothing confuses our perspective like movement. When things are stable, we have time to look at them and understand them. But when things are moving or shifting, it is much harder to decide what exactly is going on. It is no accident that the most important future event in the history of mankind is being affected by the most constantly shifting reality in our world: human events as reflected in the 24/7, always–on, media–rich news feed.
How do we keep our eye on the prize—the return of Christ to establish His kingdom—when the perspective is constantly shifting? Are the signs of the times really changing, or do we just think they are because we see more of everything than at any time in history?
The World’s Perspective
The current generation of Millennials has grown up awash in news; they’ve never known life any other way. But many of us can remember when the CNN television network began the 24–hour, always–on news cycle in 1980. Then, when the Internet came alive in the mid–1990s, the information revolution leaped geometrically again. By 2005, social media was in full swing, and we haven’t looked back. We are saturated with news about the ever–shifting landscape of our world. Words and images flow around the planet at the speed of light via satellites and fiber–optic cables. By the time the major television networks broadcast their half–hour evening news programs, the news is old. Most people already know what has happened during the day.
We are saturated with news about the ever–shifting landscape of our world.
Realize it or not, this daily saturation of news changes our perspective of the present and the future—especially because so many of the reports are troubling. Consider what we witnessed in 2020: Australian bushfires that burned 47 million acres and U.S. wildfires that burned vast swaths of land;1 COVID–19 and the ensuing global recession; an outbreak of tornadoes across the South that killed more than thirty people over the course of two days;2 police–involved deaths, protests, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement; Asian giant hornets in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps the most sobering news is from Open Doors USA, which reports more than 260 million Christians experienced high levels of persecution in 2020, and 2,983 died as martyrs.3
Those stories represent disasters, conflicts, diseases, governmental shifts, and instability—and contribute to the general sense that no one really knows what is going on and what the future holds. But they are also just the tip of the iceberg—the crises in our world are too numerous to list, and there is no hiding from them.
Some people think the world is no worse off than it has ever been; it just seems that way because we hear and see the news more constantly. But I disagree. It’s not just the amount of information we’re getting; it’s the kind of information as well. I believe these are signs of the times that tell us our world is hurtling toward its final act—or its “last days” as the Bible calls them (Acts 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3:3).
But we must keep our perspective! Instead of concluding that the world is out of control and that evil will spread and dominate the world, we must remember what is true: The troubles of this world are only a prelude to a thousand years of peace on earth and an eternity of bliss in the presence of God. The shifting sands of this world will never reveal that truth; it is found only in God’s Word, which never changes.
The troubles of this world are only a prelude to a thousand years of peace on earth and an eternity of bliss in the presence of God.
Jesus delivered that same message nearly 2,000 years ago to His disciples in what we call the Olivet Discourse—a lengthy sermon on the near and far future of God’s plans (Matthew 24:1–25:36; Mark 13:3–37; Luke 21:1–28). Scripture includes prophecy to show us a straight line that cuts through the roller–coaster hills and valleys of this world’s events—a line with an arrow tip pointing straight to the Second Coming of Christ and the consummation of history as we know it. Prophecy gives us a solid, unchanging perspective on the present and future of this world. Fulfilled prophecies in the past give us the confidence to stand firm when it comes to signs yet to be fulfilled.
This long teaching by Jesus was prompted by His disciples’ questions about the future (Luke 21:6–7). That is, the disciples of Jesus were just like us: They wanted to know how to understand the future in light of the present. They wanted to know how to separate the “signs” that matter from the “signs” that don’t. They wanted to stabilize their lives by sharpening their perspective. Isn’t that what we want as well?
Nothing will sharpen our perspective on world events in the present like knowing God’s prophetic timetable for the future.
The point of this article is not to review God’s prophetic program in detail. Instead, I want to remind you of an important truth: Nothing will sharpen our perspective on world events in the present like knowing God’s prophetic timetable for the future. Without God’s prophetic Word, we are at the mercy of this world’s events—and that is not where we want to be!
Here are three ways prophecy helps us keep a biblical perspective:
- The Promise of Prophecy. Spoken by God through the prophet Isaiah: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). What God has said will come to pass. Can you say that about the words of the leaders of this world?
- The Power of Prophecy. In response to His disciples’ questions about the future, Jesus gave them prophetic signs and said, “So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:31). God’s, not man’s, words have the power to shape the future.
- The Praise of Prophecy. Regarding some of the difficult things that the future holds, Jesus said, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). Looking at this world’s events can tempt us to hang our heads down in despair. Instead, Jesus said, lift them up and praise God that His plans are unfolding and our redemption is near.
Yes, we are living in the End Times—but that means we are standing at the threshold of a new heaven and new earth, thanks to God’s prophetic plan!
1Jackie Salo, “2020 Events: Yep, these things all happened in the year from hell,” New York Post, December 31, 2020, https://nypost.com/list/major–2020–events/, accessed on January 12, 2021.
2Jim Foerster, “Five 2020 Weather Events You May Not Have Heard About,” Forbes, January 8, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimfoerster/2021/01/08/five–2020-weather–events–you–may–not–have–heard–about/, accessed on January 12, 2021.
3“Christian Persecution,” https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian–persecution/?initcid=20SRP, accessed on January 12, 2021.
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