By Dr. David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org
The signs of the end times are everywhere. The strange thing is that believers often react to the signs the very opposite of how God intends for us to react. As we witness such things as the spread of globalism, the building of a one-world church, the increase of wickedness, the breakdown of the traditional family, the destruction of that priceless bastion of liberty called America, the normalization of homosexuality, the callous murder of babies, the filthy pop culture, the breathtaking increase in governmental surveillance, we become fearful, uncertain, frustrated, angry, and discouraged, but this is because our minds and hearts are too focused on things of this world rather than things above. Too often we have the same short view that “conservative” unbelievers have rather than the long view that comes from the light of Bible prophecy.
Doubtless there will be frustration and discouragement, because we aren’t spiritual robots who are unaffected by our environment, but our response should be tempered by the truths of God’s Word. We should respond to the times in a dramatically different way than our unsaved friends and neighbors.
When we consider what is happening in the world, we should respond in at least the following ways:
First, we should rejoice greatly in our salvation.
“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:13).
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
No matter what we suffer in this present world, it is but for a moment in light of eternity with Christ. Every day we should walk in the joy of the gift of blinded eyes opened and salvation bestowed through Christ’s great Sacrifice.
Second, we should be comforted that Christ’s return is drawing near.
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Lk. 21:28).
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words:” (1 Th. 4:15-18).
Each day brings us closer to the Rapture of the New Testament saints, and in this light, the signs of the times, though they are grievous for this present life, should be a cause of rejoicing for the believer.
Third, we should be encouraged that God is in control.
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Th. 2:7).
I love this verse at many levels. It explains why we cannot know the time of the Rapture, no matter how dark the situation gets and no matter how many “signs” are evident. I have often heard people say, “The Lord MUST come soon. It just CAN’T be much longer.” The fact is that we cannot know. We can’t know the hour, the day, or even the year or the decade. This is because the Spirit of God WILL let or restrain until He is taken out of the way. He came into the world in a special sense at Pentecost to empower the churches for world evangelism to call out a people for Christ’s name from among all nations, and He will continue to restrain the devil’s program until He is finished and not a moment before.
“Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding” (Dan. 2:20-21).
At one level, it is frustrating to see the mystery of iniquity on a fast track in these days, but at the same time we must not despair in any sense. To despair is the position of unbelief.
Fourth, we should stand in the confidence that the present evil is exceedingly temporary and will soon be cut down.
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psa. 37:7-11).
Instead of fretting, God wants us to rest in Him and in His promises. When we do this we can be a powerful witness to the unbeliever who has no such source of comfort.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:1-6).
Desperate times call for more praying, but we are witnessing a dearth of prayer in the typical Bible-believing church. There is lots of partying and lots of activities and fun but not a lot of praying.
No wonder there is no spiritual power to change things. No wonder we have to adopt carnal methods and pursue pragmatism and mess around with “church growth” techniques.
1 Timothy 2 ties prayer together with living a quiet and peaceable life and the liberty to preach the gospel, the very things that we want.
We need to get back to having a real “gather in little groups, get down on your knees” mid-week prayer meeting that consists of a serious time of earnest and effectual prayer rather than merely adding a five minute prayer to a regular service.
We need to get back to having prayer meetings before Sunday services.
We need to get back to having all-night prayer meetings.
We need to get back to having a series of “cottage prayer meetings” before special meetings and conferences.
We need to get back to having a private prayer closet for daily intercessory prayer.
We need to get back to having a family altar time of prayer.
We need to get back to having prayer partners with whom we regularly meet for prayer. It is a powerful and effectual thing to agree together in prayer before the Lord for particular requests.
I am convinced that the reason why it is so difficult to get the Lord’s people to attend real prayer meetings is that so few of them have an effectual intercessory prayer life.
Sixth, we must understand the times.
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11).
We need to know the time, and we can only do that by a literal interpretation of Bible prophecy.
A literal interpretation teaches us that we cannot return to the 18th century when America was created or even the 19th or the 20th. That was a different time. The 21st century America cannot be re-created as something that existed in the past. It is obvious that the prophetic hour is very late and the Rapture is near. Israel is back in the land. The spirit of ancient Sodom is spreading across the face of the earth. Globalism rules in commerce and culture and politics in preparation for the rise of the man of sin. The nations are aligned against God and His anointed in fulfillment of Psalm 2. The apostasy of 2 Timothy 3-4 has spread with breathtaking speed. Even a large percentage of “evangelicals” today worship a false christ (as we have documented in The Collapse of Separatism, which is available in print and as a free eBook from Way of Life Literature).
What every IFB church needs to do is stop listening to unscriptural voices and pursuing pipe dreams, and focus rather on doing exactly what God has told us to do. Our job is not to build Christian nations; our job is to build godly, Bible-believing churches. We need to occupy ourselves with building a strong foundation in the knowledge of God’s Word, building godly, separated individuals and families, marking and avoiding the budding apostasy even in our own “circles,” and fulfilling the Lord’s Great Commission, and that commission is not about saving America or transforming the culture.
This will do far more to help America or Canada or wherever than pursuing the misguided and heretical “cultural activism.”
The root problem with America’s moral and social ills is the apostasy and compromise in the churches. This is the teaching of 2 Chronicles 7:14, which also states that the moral and social problems can be healed only by the repentance of God’s people.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
We have witnessed 40 years of intense cultural and political activism on the part of sincere but misguided people led by the likes of Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy. The result has been the exact opposite of the goal. The goal was to bring America back to God, but the result has been a precipitous deterioration of the nation’s moral condition. This is for the simple reason that this activism does not address the root problem and, in fact, it is part of the problem by producing further spiritual compromise in the churches through the heresy of ecumenism and illicit associations.
It has been said that a definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Finally, we should be busy in the harvest fields.
“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. 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” (2 Pet. 3:8-9).
The Bible plainly says that Christ is waiting because He wants to save souls.
He isn’t in a hurry. He isn’t shortsighted like we are, because He dwells in eternity. If a thousand years is as a day, then 41 years would be a mere hour. Actually, I am praying that God would give our mission field of South Asia another 41 years at least to hear the gospel, to have an opportunity to be saved (but at the same time there are so few doctrinally sound workers that it seems almost in vain).
Instead of fretting at the signs of the times, we need to rededicate ourselves to proclaiming the gospel to every person in every nation and building sound Bible-believing churches where God’s people can be protected, edified, trained, discipled, and where godly Christian homes can be built and children can be prepared as arrows in the hand of the Lord to go out and do battle against the forces of evil.
It is my personal dedication to this task that keeps me from despairing and being angry and frustrated and discouraged at the signs of the times, such as the destruction of America, though I know as much about these things as most people and though I study them in order to publish O Timothy magazine and Friday Church News Notes.
At age 52 we returned to the “mission field” in one of the darkest parts of the world, where we had already spent more than 10 years preaching the gospel and planting churches, and at 63 we are more committed to and excited about missionary work than ever.
It is strange that at the very time when God’s people should be doubling down to fulfill the Great Commission, in a time when even in the midst of great turmoil we still have great freedom and many resources, the number of missionaries is decreasing, and the few who do go to the most spiritually needy parts of the world don’t have the commitment to stay by the stuff anymore, but instead seem to find any excuse to rush back to the land of comfort and plenty, the land where spiritual light is still shining brighter than any other part of the world, the land where full-time Christian workers abound, while so much of the rest of the world sits in unremitting darkness.
At the very time when we should be living like the pilgrims God’s Word says we are and focusing on God’s business rather than our own, so many are putting down the same roots as their unbelieving neighbors, trying to lay up a large nest egg, fretting about the stock market, wanting to build a bigger home or buy a fancier car, not being generous in missions giving, not spending even an hour a week in gospel work, not maintaining a daily intercessory prayer closet, not being faithful and fruitful members of Bible-believing churches, not encouraging their children to surrender to Christ’s Great Commission.
The best thing to do is to believe the Psalmist when he says,
“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psa. 37:25).
Friends, let’s wake up while we still have the opportunity! It is a joy to sell out to the Lord, and we should never be afraid of His perfect will, but there is going to be a lot of regret one of these days when we look back on hours, days, weeks, months, and years wasted on vanity while God’s work was left undone.
“Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Lk. 10:2).