Daily Archives: June 17, 2014

Questions about the End Times: Are We Living in the End Times?

 

The Bible prophesies of many events that will occur in the end times. These events can be categorized as natural signs, spiritual signs, sociological signs, technological signs, and political signs. We can look to what the Bible says about these things, and if the signs are present in abundance, we can be certain that we are, in fact, living in the end times.

Luke 21:11 lists some of the natural signs that will occur before Jesus’ Second Coming: “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” In 13 years, between 1991 and 2004, the United States alone has experienced 5 of its costliest hurricanes in history, 3 of its 4 largest tornado swarms in history, and 9 of the 10 greatest disasters as determined by FEMA. We have recently seen Hurricane Sandy, which some have called the “perfect storm.” There is a huge upswing in the prevalence of sinkholes. As for great signs from heaven, we’ve seen the Chelyabinsk meteor, which exploded over Russia, emitting a powerful shock wave. All of these events seem to be a warm up to what is coming next—“birth pangs,” as Jesus called them (Matthew 24:8).

The Bible lists both positive and negative spiritual signs. In 2 Timothy 4:3–4 we discover that many people will follow false teachers. We see now an increase in cultic groups, heresy, deception and occultism, with many choosing to follow new age or pagan religions. On the positive side, Joel 2:28–29 prophesies that there will be a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16), and we are still seeing the effects of that outpouring in revivals and Spirit-led Christian movements, worldwide preaching of the gospel message, and the emergence of Messianic Judaism.

Along with the signs in the natural and spiritual realms, there are signs in society. The immorality rampant in society today is a symptom of mankind’s rebellion against God. Abortion, homosexuality, drug abuse and child molestation are proof that “evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3:13). We are now living in a hedonistic and materialistic society. People are lovers of themselves—“looking out for number one”—and doing what is right in their own eyes. All these things, and many more, can be seen around us every day (see 2 Timothy 3:1–4).

The fulfillment of some end-times prophecies seemed impossible until the advent of modern technology. Daniel 12:4 foretold an increase in knowledge. Some of the judgments in Revelation are more easily imagined in a nuclear age. In Revelation 13, the Antichrist will control commerce by forcing people to take the mark of the beast, and, given today’s advances in computer chip technology, the tools he will use may very well be here already. And through the internet, radio and television, the gospel can now be proclaimed to the entire world (Mark 13:10).

And there are political signs. The restoration of Israel to her land in 1948 is the single most impressive fulfilled prophecy proving that we live in the end times. At the turn of the 20th century, no one would have dreamed that Israel would be back in her land, let alone occupying Jerusalem. Jerusalem is definitely at the center of geopolitics and stands alone against many enemies; Zechariah 12:3 confirms this: “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.” Matthew 24:6–7 predicted that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” “Wars and rumors of wars” are definitely characteristic of this present age.

These are just a few of the signs that we are living in the end of the age. There are many more. God gave us these prophecies because He does not want anyone to perish, and He always gives ample warning before pouring out His wrath (2 Peter 3:9).

Are we living in the end times? The rapture could occur at any moment. God will deal with sin either by grace or by wrath. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their savior will remain under the Lord’s wrath.

The good news is that it’s not too late to choose eternal life. All that is required is acceptance, by faith, of God’s free gift of grace. There is nothing you can do to earn grace; Jesus has paid the price for you (Romans 3:24). Are you ready for the Lord’s return? Or will you experience His wrath?[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Apologetics and Worldview: Why Are Christians Always Arguing?

 

Scripture is clear that God hates discord and fighting among His children (2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:15; James 3:14, 4:1–3). Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” If every believer lived by that rule, arguing would virtually disappear. Any parent frowns upon bickering between siblings, and God is a Father who also frowns on it. However, there are three key words in this question that deserve attention: Christians, always, and arguing.

First, the term Christians has been badly misused in recent years. Anyone who celebrates Christmas or who attends church occasionally can claim to be a “Christian.” However, according to Jesus, “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Much of the fighting and ugliness we hear about is between people who might go by the name of “Christian” but who are not true followers of Christ. Selfish ambition, pride, and greed can rule within a church full of unbelievers just as in the rest of the world. There are whole denominations that are so far from the truth detailed in the Bible that they can hardly be classified as Christian (see Revelation 3:17–18). So, we should keep in mind that much of the arguing is between unsaved people posing as believers.

Second, the term always is a bit misleading. If we weed out those who are not truly born again and look only at the relationships among the real disciples of Christ, there is much to celebrate. Thousands of charitable organizations have been created by Christians working together in harmony. They are not “always” arguing. Most Spirit-filled churches have a large core of solid Christians who unselfishly use their time, talents, and money to serve their church and community without bickering. The media are quick to showcase anything negative within the church but are strangely silent about the thousands of praiseworthy deeds done every day by Christians working together in love.

The church of Jesus Christ is a family. Those who have placed their faith in Christ are allowing His Spirit to transform them and have been adopted into the family of God (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:15). And, as with any family, there are disagreements. There are personality clashes, differing opinions, and ideas that won’t work together. When each is convinced that his or her way is the only right way, the clash can be permanent. However, differences of opinion do not always produce negative results. Even the apostles had disagreements. In Acts 15:36–41, we read of Paul and Barnabas having such a sharp contention that they split up, chose new ministry partners, and went separate ways. The result was that even more churches were planted and God’s message was spread to more people. Paul and Barnabas eventually reconciled and continued together to spread the gospel.

The third term, arguing, also needs to be addressed. A discussion between sharply contrasting viewpoints is not necessarily an argument. The deity of Christ, salvation through faith, and the need for repentance are not negotiable. But some secondary issues in God’s Word leave room for differences of opinion. Some common disagreements pertain to end-times prophecy, gifts of the Spirit, baptism, and church organization. While there is only one accurate interpretation of everything in the Bible, a human being’s ability to discern that one interpretation can be faulty. Two godly men can see the same issue differently. Most church denominations arose out of these contrasting interpretations. But those denominations are not necessarily embroiled in an “argument” with each other.

Paul addresses this in Romans 14. He warns believers to welcome those new to the faith who may have convictions that differ from those of the seasoned saint. Verse 5 says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” In other words, there are some issues that are not weighty matters, and we need to practice grace in accepting the sincerely held convictions of other believers. Doing so consistently would eliminate much of the arguing that taints the reputation of the body of Christ. We must study God’s Word and express what we believe it teaches (2 Timothy 2:15), but we must do so with humility and love, giving grace to other believers who see things differently (1 Corinthians 13:1–2).

Ultimately, we all answer to our Father for how we treat each other (Matthew 12:36). Every child of God should remember that our Father places far more importance on our showing love than He does on our being “right” on every issue (1 John 4:20–21).[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Eternity: Who Will Go to Hell?

 

Hell has become a controversial subject in recent years, even among Christians. However, the controversy is entirely man-made. The rejection of the reality of hell stems from a human inability to reconcile the love of God with eternal punishment or from an outright rejection of God’s Word. Even some professing Christians have come to unbiblical conclusions. Some have tried to redefine hell, create an intermediate state not found in Scripture, or deny hell altogether. In doing so, they are ignoring Jesus’ warning in Revelation 22:19, “If anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.”

Hell is mentioned 167 times in the Bible, sometimes called Gehenna, Hades, the pit, the Abyss, or everlasting punishment (Proverbs 7:27; Luke 8:31; 10:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). Jesus spoke of heaven and hell as real places (Matthew 13:41–42; 23:33; Mark 9:43–47; Luke 12:5). The story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus was an actual event that demonstrated the reality of the two eternal destinations (Luke 16:19–31). Heaven is the dwelling place of God (2 Chronicles 30:27) where Jesus has gone to “prepare a place” for those who love Him (John 14:2). Hell was created for “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). But because every human being is a sinner, every person past the age of accountability has already been condemned to hell (Romans 3:10; 5:12; John 3:18). We all deserve hell as the just punishment for our rebellion against God (Romans 6:23).

Jesus was clear that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). He was also clear that hell is an eternal punishment for those who do not obey Him (Matthew 25:46). Second Thessalonians 1:8–9 says that in the end God “will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” John the Baptist said about Jesus, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12).

John 3:18 explains in the simplest terms who will go to heaven and who will go to hell: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” So, those who go to hell are specifically those who do not believe in Jesus’ name. To “believe” goes beyond a mental recognition of the truth. To believe in Christ for salvation requires a transfer of allegiance. We stop worshiping ourselves, we forsake our sin, and we begin to worship God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:26–27; Mark 12:30).

God desires that every person spend eternity with Him (Matthew 18:14; 2 Peter 3:9), but He honors our free will (John 4:14). Anyone who so desires can go to heaven (John 1:12). Jesus already paid the price for our salvation, but we must accept that gift and transfer ownership of our lives to Him (Luke 9:23). Heaven is perfect, and God cannot take anyone there who insists on holding on to his or her sin. We must allow Him to cleanse us of our sin and make us righteous in His sight (2 Corinthians 5:21). John 1:10–12 shows us the problem and the solution: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

We can choose to trust in Jesus’ payment for our sin, or we can choose to pay for our sins ourselves—but we must remember that the payment for our sin is eternity in hell. C. S. Lewis said it this way: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ ”[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.