Sign/ Ignorance of Impending Judgment


Before God brings total destruction upon a wayward society, He generally gives many warnings. These may include a series of lesser calamities, continuing with increasing severity until men recognize their peril before God and turn to Him in repentance. If they continue unrepentant until their hardness exhausts God's patience, destruction will finally come.

Consider all the calamities that have fallen upon the world in recent years.

The calamities we have seen recently are warnings of impending judgment, but the secular world is ignoring them. The media have refused to consider that the ultimate reason for these calamities is God's displeasure with modern civilization. If any public figure suggested that the spate of disasters and diseases is a divine call to repentance, he would be laughed out of the limelight. The average person who hears about the suffering of others feels little concern and goes on with his own affairs. If he himself meets disaster, he reconstructs his life the best he can, but he does not repent.

The role of God as overseer of human events hardly enters anyone's thoughts. No one heeds the warnings that are becoming ever louder and more frequent.

All this agrees with prophecy. The Bible says that in the Last Days, men will be ignorant of impending judgment. Recall what Jesus said about the coming of the Son of man.

37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

Matthew 24:37-41

Just as the people in Noah's day lived in ignorance of the Flood until it swept them away, so people in the days before Christ's return will continue in their sins without any awareness that God will soon judge the world.

Peter offers a similar warning.

3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

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.

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.

2 Peter 3:3-10

Why will the people in the Last Days be ignorant of what is about to happen?

The ruling preoccupation in the lives of most people today is TV. What is the purpose of life according to TV? Is it to please God and escape His judgment? No, it is to have a good time. TV teaches that life is a situation comedy punctuated by compulsive laughter. Life is a game of cops and robbers. Life is an exciting quest to win an ocean cruise. Life is the one thousand and first test of the momentous question, is the team from Chicago or the team from New York better at throwing a ball through a basket?


Sign: Moral Corruption in the Church


As we saw in an earlier lesson, Paul predicts that the churches in the Last Days would be filled with people who are gravely deficient in moral character.

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Is this the situation we find in churches today? If we take into account all churches with a Bible-believing heritage, even though they have drifted far into apostasy and worldliness, the answer is clearly, yes. Within my lifetime I have seen within these churches a sharp decline in integrity. Many who profess Christ today are indeed selfish and self-centered, obsessed with gaining more of the world's pleasure and prosperity, difficult to get along with, as prone as unbelievers to quarrel with family and to separate from a spouse. Many are truly blasphemers. It is shocking that in some churches today it is acceptable to use the word "God" as an expletive. A few years ago, the famous preacher Warren Wiersbe wrote a book entitled The Integrity Crisis (3). He complained that pragmatism, profiteering, and immorality are plaguing the church at the highest levels. Unfortunately, he is right. Yet corruption behind the pulpit is merely a reflection of corruption in the pew. Men of poor character are rising to lead churches and church bodies because men of good character are in short supply.


Sign: Disbelief in the Second Coming


Paul warns that men of the Last Days "shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:4). Some of these fables are described by Peter.

3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

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.

2 Peter 3:3-7

In an earlier lesson, we demonstrated that the scoffers Peter anticipates would belong to organized Christianity. They would consider the original teachers of the Second Coming—that is, the apostles and their followers—to be their spiritual fathers. Yet Peter makes the shocking prediction that these self-styled Christians would regard the promise of Christ's coming as no more than an ancient superstition.

The Second Coming is a central teaching of the New Testament, giving hope to a suffering church that evil in the world will someday be overthrown, and assuring the Jew that all of God's promises to Israel will in due time be fulfilled. If we search church history, we find that disbelief in the Second Coming hardly existed before the nineteenth century. Only after the rise of modern liberalism and modern skepticism did multitudes in the church begin to doubt core doctrines of the Bible. We conclude, then, that Peter is looking ahead to the sort of apostasy that has appeared only in modern times. The times in which we live are the fulfillment of what he calls "the last days."


Sign: Disbelief in the Biblical Account of Origins


In Peter's outline of what scoffers in the Last Days would accept in place of the Biblical world view, he notices three of their beliefs, all of which are prevalent today.

  1. They would believe in a beginning (v. 4). Indeed, the second law of thermodynamics compels modern science to admit that the universe must have originated at a definite time. Modern science tells the following story: "All the matter of the universe was originally squeezed into a huge, superdense fireball. Being supremely unstable, this fireball exploded within a moment after coming into existence, and from the Big Bang, as it is called, all matter and energy raced outward into the vast reaches of space. Today, in continuation of the outward motion initiated by the Big Bang, every celestial body is still moving rapidly away from every other celestial body." This picture of origins is, of course, merely false speculation.
  2. They would believe that the history of the earth has never been interrupted by unusual events like the Flood (v. 5). The prophecy has come true. The dominant view of modern science is that all past changes in the earth have been like the gradual changes we see today—that the present condition of the earth owes nothing to great catastrophes, but rather is the end product of a uniform development. The doctrine that the past is like the present is known as uniformitarianism.
  3. They would believe in something called "creation" (v. 4). The word can refer to either a creative process or a created thing. In the Greek text, the word is not preceded by a definite article. Verse 4 says only "the beginning of creation." Therefore, the word likely denotes a creative process. What the scoffers would acknowledge is that everything did not suddenly appear in its present form. While rejecting special creation by God, they would believe that a creative process has been at work since the beginning to bring the universe from a state of primordial chaos to the elegant complexity we see today. The doctrine that the universe has undergone such a development is known as evolution. Together, the doctrines of uniformitarianism and evolution imply that the universe is very old.

It is evident that the scoffers who would someday appear within the church and challenge the teachings of the Bible are men of the modern era, living within the last two hundred years. When Peter speaks of the Last Days, he is pointing to the very time in which we live.


Sign: False Christs


If we live in the Last Days, do we also live in the period that the Bible designates the time of the end? In an earlier lesson, we argued that the time of the end refers to the period of history symbolized in Nebuchadnezzar's dream as the feet and toes of a great image. This would be the period when the nation of Israel returned to the world stage long after its departure in A.D. 70. The time of the end must therefore have begun in 1948 at the founding of modern Israel. We are now about sixty years into its unfolding.

We showed in an earlier lesson that Jesus in the Olivet Discourse divides the time of the end into three periods. He portrays the opening period with a few broad strokes.

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 be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Matthew 24:4-6

The proof that the time of the end has already begun comes from examining this description of the opening period.

One sign that history has passed into the opening period would be the appearance of many deceivers in the church who claim to be Christ. The three attributes of these deceivers help us recognize the modern fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.

  1. They would "come in my name" (v. 5). That is, they would not be Hindus, theosophists, New Age gurus, or even cult leaders like Sun Myung Moon. Rather, they would claim to be Christians.
  2. They would be "many" in number and would "deceive many" (v. 5). Jesus was evidently not talking about madmen or bizarre misfits. People like Charles Manson and David Koresh are always few in number, and they have limited influence. Rather, the deceivers would be prominent figures in regular organized Christianity.
  3. They would say, "I am Christ" (v. 5).

Two movements that became strong in the twentieth century and even stronger after 1948 match Jesus’ prediction.

  1. Since 1900, mainline Protestantism and even segments of Catholicism have been dominated by a theology known as Modernism. The basic tenet of Modernism is that the historical Jesus was no more than a man. From the belief that all humanity shares the essential nature of Christ has followed the presumption that everyone has Christ-potential—that everyone can, by following His example, become His moral and spiritual equal. In whom do the leaders of Modernism believe that Christ-potential is more fully realized than in themselves? Indeed, many among them pose as the very likeness of Christ. Yet though they heap upon themselves and their followers the flattery that they are imitating Christ, knowing Christ, and becoming Christ, they are in fact walking in obedience to their father, the devil.
  2. During the same period, a new brand of deviant Christianity arose that has gained millions of adherents. This is the modern tongues-speaking movement, embracing all churches that call themselves Pentecostal or charismatic. Many leaders of this movement pretend that by a mere exhalation of their lips or wave of their hand or chanting of their voice they can communicate the Spirit to others (4). In effect, they put themselves in Christ’s place and virtually say, "I am Christ," for the Spirit proceeds from Him alone (John 15:26; 16:7). The apostles were able to furnish the Spirit to the newly converted Samaritans, but only by prayer exalting Christ as the true giver (Acts 8:15–17), whereas Pentecostal televangelists and their ilk put the camera on themselves, creating the impression that the Spirit moves in obedience to their will. Moreover, as proof of their power, faith healers claim to perform miraculous healings, although these can never be verified, and other preachers in the same camp point to the bizarre behavior that they can induce in their followers by supposedly giving them the Spirit—behavior interpreted as a sign of the Spirit’s presence. The usual sign is the mouthing of meaningless sounds, which is mistaken for speaking in tongues. Other signs are violent agitation of the body, swooning, falling down, or even hysterical laughter. This travesty of true worship hinders any real working of the Spirit to build faith and godliness.

Footnotes

  1. Press Release, www.munichre.com (http://www.munichre.com.press media/pm artikel.php3?id=2&lang=eng), 7/13/2000.
  2. "Report: AIDS Pandemic Declared Threat to U.S. National Security," CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2000/US/04/30/aids.threat.02/), 30 April 2000.
  3. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, exp. ed. with study guide (Nashville, Tenn.: Oliver-Nelson, 1991).
  4. The Great Apostasy: The Lost Sign, DVD (n.p.: The Christian Sentinel, n.d.).