It's Coming, Possibly Soon

50092255_5e569c5dda_z-1 The small sign flashed through the darkness, “I80 Closed Ahead.”

Tired from almost 14 hours of traveling, I drove past both the sign and nearby exit before fully processing the message. I soon began telling myself the message couldn’t possibly be true. If the interstate was truly closed ahead, there would have been a much bigger sign warning of its closure. Besides, very few cars were getting off at the exit by sign. Like me, almost everyone else kept going. I also knew of another upcoming exit; I still had time to get off the highway before being stopped.

Within a few miles I saw the flashing lights of a police car and slowly rolled to a stop. Interstate 80 was closed!

As I reflect on my response to the warning sign that night, I realize many explain away God’s warnings in Scripture regarding the tribulation in much the same way. They drive past the way of escape offered through Jesus’ death on the cross thinking the world around them will never change. Almost everyone else is going their way, what could possibly go wrong?

Scripture repeatedly warns of a coming time of terrible tribulation upon the earth. The prophet Jeremiah referred to this period as “time of Jacob's trouble.”[i] Jesus Himself described a future time of great tribulation in Matthew 24:15-29 as He warned of terrible conditions on earth just before His return in glory. The book of Revelation provides alarming details of this time of God’s wrath yet to come upon the world.

The coming tribulation will affect everyone reading this post, possibly quite soon. Either you will be caught up to forever be with Jesus before it starts or witness the beginning of this terrible time of suffering on the earth.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Today, we see signs of the coming Great Tribulation upon the earth everywhere. In Matthew 24:4-14, Jesus gave us signs of what the world would look like as this time of tribulation approached.

It’s almost as if Jesus opened a laptop and read current news stories from the Internet to His disciples when He spoke of the signs of the coming tribulation.

Today, we see these signs everywhere we look. It’s almost as if Jesus opened a laptop and read current news stories from the Internet to His disciples when He spoke of the signs of the coming tribulation. Here are a few of the signs we see of the coming Great Tribulation:

Earthquakes: Earthquakes are following this exact pattern as the number and severity of earthquakes have rapidly increased during the past 20 years.  They are increasing like birth pangs, exactly as Jesus predicted.

Wars: “Wars and rumor of wars” abound in today’s news stories. Just today I read a news item where "experts" say we are closer to WW III than at any time in the previous 60 years.

Persecution: Persecution of Christians worldwide continues to dramatically increase, just as Jesus said would happen ahead of the coming tribulation.

The Temple: Jesus spoke of a Jewish Temple that the antichrist would defile halfway through the tribulation. Signs of this coming temple appear almost every day. The Temple Institute is now training Levites to be priests and the Sanhedrin recently named the high priest for this temple.

One World Government: The framework for the one world government of the tribulation is already in place. Those planning this coming world order are not hiding their plans and agenda; it’s no secret as to what they are planning. By 2030 the elite plan to have this worldwide socialist order in place with all nations of the world under one leader.

There is an Exit

There was an exit by the sign that night that would have allowed me to miss the traffic jam on Interstate 80. In the same way, Jesus is our only way of escape from the coming wrath that will befall the world.

Jesus made it clear that He alone is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” Him.[ii] If you have never placed your faith in Jesus and His death on the cross for your sins, please do so before it is too late. Scripture promises that all who call upon “the name of the Lord will be saved.”[iii] Turn to Jesus; look to Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life. He is the only place of refuge in a world heading for calamity.

John 3:16 assures us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” These familiar words hold the promise of life for all who believe. Jesus died so that we might have eternal life.

The “I80 Closed Ahead” sign is flashing brighter than ever before in history. Do not make the same mistake with your eternal destiny that I made that night in ignoring the flashing sign and driving past the exit. My failure to heed the warning led to a temporal delay in getting home. Rejecting Jesus and His gracious offer of salvation will have eternal consequences far beyond the coming Great Tribulation.

Please understand this does not mean we desire to see suffering on the earth or the deaths of so many people as will occur during the tribulation. That is most definitely not our hope. Our hope is in Jesus' appearing and our desire is that as many people as possible find Him as their Savior before this time of tribulation begins.

I see God's hand of restraint in so many areas around the world. How much longer will He hold back the evil and destruction that seem ready to explode to an even greater degree in our nation and throughout the world?

Without Jesus’ intervention, however, the world is on a path to total self-destruction in which all human life will be lost.[iv] Jesus made it clear that without His return after the tribulation all life on earth would perish. God’s judgments during the tribulation will be warnings for people to repent, which millions of people will do and find eternal life in Him.

We do not know when Jesus will come for His church. I believe everything is in place for the tribulation to begin; it’s just a matter of time before God’s patience comes to an end and Jesus appears to take us home!

While things may seem bad now, Paul tells that the restrainer now actively works to hold back the antichrist until the time is right for the day of the Lord, or the tribulation to begin (see 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7). When that happens, things will get much worse in our world in a big hurry.

I see God's hand of restraint in so many areas around the world. How much longer will He hold back the evil and destruction that seem ready to explode to an even greater degree in our nation and throughout the world?

[i] Jeremiah 30:7 (KJV)       [ii] John 14:6       [iii] Romans 10:13     [iv] See Matthew 24:22

The Dangers of Silence

Compared to when I was growing up, the church is deafly silent on the matter of future things. What is going on that makes our churches so quiet on prophecy? Why do pastors gloss over prophetic references in their sermon texts avoiding references to the future hope of believers? The Apostle Paul refers to our hope of Jesus’ imminent appearing in almost every book he wrote, yet somehow the topic never comes up in sermon series from these epistles.

Some might ask: Why does that matter? Does it really make a difference if our churches remain quiet on future things?

I believe it makes a huge difference! Here are a few of the dangers resulting from the current pervasive silence on eschatology, or study of future things, in our churches:

1. Postings on the Internet can become the main source of information on prophetic matters rather than God’s Word

When churches remain silent on prophecy, believers who are curious look for answers where most everyone else looks for answers today, on the Internet. There they find a wide array of teachings and opinions, some biblical but many bizarre and misleading. Some believers possess the needed scriptural discernment to sort through the mess, but others lack this and as a result become easily swayed by what they read. Even well-grounded Christians can fall prey to the misinformation on the Internet if they are not careful.

A quick question for pastors reading this: Is the Internet really the only place you want those in your church studying prophecy? Would it not be better for you to provide the biblical guidance they so desperately need?

2. False teachings flourish

Without sound biblical teaching in our churches on future things, people become misled by what they read on the Internet or in various books on eschatology. The silence of so many churches on future things has opened the door wide for false teachings to flourish. This is precisely what we see today; teachings that deny our hope in Jesus’ imminent appearing are rapidly growing in popularity.

When pastors fail to proclaim the “whole counsel of God,” they do not provide the needed protection against the enemies of the Gospel (see Acts 20:26-30). Paul called these false teachers “grievous” or “fierce wolves” and rightly so. Sound biblical teaching on eschatology is so greatly needed today with the presence of so many false teachers.

3. Believers look to this life for their hope

Churches that ignore the two-world perspective of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 focus the hope of believers on this life rather than eternity. We need teaching on such things as healthy marriages, parenting, finances, etc., but without an eternal perspective these things quickly become the goal and hence the hope of many. When the focus of teaching and preaching becomes this life alone, those listening will of course put their hope in this life. It’s no mystery when churches ignore our thrilling future hope that those in the pews regard this life as their home. This is the case in so many churches in America.

I am not saying that pastors want those in their church to regard this world as their ultimate home; their silence on prophecy, however, accomplishes this end whether intentional or not.

4. Believers are not prepared for what is coming

The storm clouds gathering on the horizon threaten to sweep away all of the props of this life, all the things to which so many of us look for our hope. Are we prepared for that to happen?

Today we read of threats from massive terror attacks, powerful earthquakes, deadly volcanoes, global wars, as well as total economic collapse. It’s not just the portrayers of doom saying these things, but respected and knowledgeable experts in each of these areas predicting such things.

Yes, Jesus may come for His church before any of these things happen. That, however, still represents a different hope than that of many of Christ’s followers today. Those in Christ will not miss out on the rapture. But will those also look to the things of this world as sources of hope be among those who feel shame once in the presence of their Savior (1 John 2:28)?

In addition, can we really be sure that the violent persecution of believers we see throughout the world will not occur here in America before Jesus returns for us? Are we ready should that happen?

How much longer can our churches keep quiet about our hope? As prophecy starts to be fulfilled all around us in dramatic ways, why are our pastors not pleading with us to look up because our redemption is near? Paul certainly was not silent regarding the hope Jesus’ soon appearing and he did not see even a small fraction of all the telling signs we see today.

This is why I write; I feel an urgent need to turn our eyes toward the return of Jesus and the thrill of our eternal hope. We cannot know for sure when Jesus will return, but we see signs all around us of the coming tribulation and we sense it cannot be a whole lot longer till He returns for us.

Today a great need exists for followers of Christ to know the source of their ultimate hope and why they can be confident, based on Scripture, of that hope.

Awaiting the Master's Arrival

Max and Chloes I believe the characters of Max and Chloe in The Secret Life of Pets teach us something about our expectancy regarding Jesus’ return for His church. Lest you think I am crazy, let me explain.

The movie portrays Max, the dog, as eagerly longing for the return of Katie, his owner. He begins awaiting her return as soon as she left for work in the morning. Chloe the cat, on the other hand, enjoys her time alone. At the end of the day she seems annoyed by the intrusion of her master into her domain.

While not seeking to favor Max over Chloe (or spark a dogs versus cats debate), I believe the difference in their characters illustrates a greater reality.

In 1 Corinthians 1:7, Paul described his readers as “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The sense is that of “eagerly waiting” Jesus’ appearing, an excited expectation of His arrival. The Apostle used the same word in Philippians 3:20 to also speak of our joyous anticipation of Jesus’ return to take us home.

Do you see it? Doesn’t that sound more like Max than Chloe? The apostles focused the hope of New Testament believers solely upon Jesus’ return for them (1 Pet. 1:13; 1 John 3:1-3). New Testament believers awaited Jesus’ return for them with great expectancy. Such hope characterized their response to the Gospel (Titus 2:11-13; I Thess. 1:9-10).

Why is this so foreign to our thinking today? Why do so many Christians take a ho-hum attitude to Jesus’ return?

I believe several factors contribute to this.

Mockery: My heart aches as I see the ridicule of the rapture on social media. What are believers to think when they see others who claim to love the Lord openly mocking their hope in His appearing? This ridicule of our hope leads some believers into the paths of those who deny our hope in Jesus’ imminent return. For other Christians, such contempt tempers their anticipation of Jesus' return; the rapture becomes far too controversial of an event upon which to place their hope.

Misconceptions: Depictions of glorified believers sitting all alone on clouds strumming harps also dampen our anticipation of eternity. While we will worship Jesus forever, Scripture paints a much more exciting and wonderful picture of eternity than that of a long dull worship service or of playing instruments by ourselves on a cloud. We will reign with Christ in His earthly kingdom and then forevermore throughout eternity. Doesn’t that sound much more exciting than some lowly angel seeking to gain his wings? I believe the joy and excitement ahead for us at Jesus’ return will far surpass all we can imagine.

“I’ve heard that before:” Back in the 1960s’ and 1970’s, eschatology became a hot topic. Many churches emphasized the imminent return of Jesus. I remember Jack Van Impe coming to my church to teach for an entire week about Bible prophecy.

As time has passed, however, believers have lost their expectancy of Jesus’ return. Having looked for Jesus’ return for so long, I understand the sentiment that finds it difficult to believe He will appear anytime soon. After all, we have heard it all before and nothing has happened. However, with so much prophecy being fulfilled before our eyes, if there was ever a time to be watchful for the Master, it is now!

Silence: Unfortunately, rather than increase their focus on Jesus’ return as the signs of His coming multiply, many churches have become mostly silent regarding future things. How can believers be excited about their future hope if its details are never taught? It’s not easy for Christians to focus their hope on something so rarely proclaimed in our churches.

The above factors, and perhaps many more, have made many believers rather blasé regarding Jesus’ appearing. Dare I say many Christians today resemble the character of Chloe rather than Max regarding Jesus’ return?

While we do not copy the behavior of Max who was willing to do nothing other than sit by the door waiting for his master to return, perhaps his eager anticipation of seeing his master is something we do need to imitate. Are we waiting for His coming?

Max from The Seccret Life of Pets

Jesus' Appearing

cropped-kumamoto-japan-aso-cloud-45848-large-jpeg.jpg I could think of nothing else.

I even tried extra cleaning around my house, but to no avail.

We met on eHarmony months earlier and now our relationship had turned into a romance. Ruth lived three hours away so sometimes weeks would go by without seeing her. But now she was on her way to see me and I eagerly awaited her arrival.

What if we anticipated the arrival of our Savior in a similar way?

The apostles taught New Testament believers to live in eager anticipation of Jesus’ appearing. This hope brought a joy-filled two-world perspective that not only transformed their daily lives, but enabled them to literally change the world.

Titus 2:11-13 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Paul characterized believers as recipients of grace who looked for the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.

The apostle reported this same connection with the Gospel on the part of the Thessalonians, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). The natural consequence of turning away from idols to serve God was that of expectantly watching for the Lord’s appearing. In both verses above, Paul equates belief in the Gospel with an eager anticipation of Jesus’ return for His church.

A recent GEICO commercial portrays a spy fleeing from both armed men and a helicopter. His phone rings as his adversaries appear ready to capture him. Thinking the call is from those coming to rescue him; he answers the phone shouting “Where are you?” We then see and hear his mom calmly talking about squirrels in the attic after which the narrator says, “If you’re a mom, you call at the worst time. It’s what you do.” Reflecting on what Paul said in Titus and 1 Thessalonians, we might expect him to say something similar: “If you believe the Gospel message of grace, you live in expectancy of Jesus’ appearing. It’s what you do.”

Philippians 3:20 states, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word Paul used for “await” in this verse denotes “intense anticipation” and an “excited expectation” of a future event.[i] This word implies eagerness and even a longing in our hearts for a future event. The same word is used in Acts 17:16 of Paul’s restless longing for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. After the apostle’s recent troubles in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, he very much desired to see them again. In Philippians, Paul applies this same deep longing to our anticipation of Jesus’ appearing.

The Apostle Peter instructs us to focus our hope entirely on the “grace” to be brought to us at Jesus’ appearing. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:13). Jesus’ future appearing is our hope in this life. As believers, we focus our hope on the grace to be brought to us when Jesus appears to take us home. It’s what we do.

Our hope does not reside in anything in this life. Everything we see is fleeting and temporal. Earthly treasure can evaporate overnight. Politics and leaders continually disappoint us. Our hope resides solely in Jesus and His return to take us home to be with Him.

1 John 3:2-3 says, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” When Jesus appears and we see His great glory, He will transform us to be like Him. This anticipation of Jesus’ appearing works to transform us, it purifies us.

From this sampling of verses, we see the apostles repeatedly direct the focus of our hope toward Jesus’ appearing. As believers, we wait in joyous anticipation of seeing Jesus face to face. Why would the apostles keep directing hope of the early church to Jesus’ return for His church if was not a possibility in their lifetimes? Nearly 2,000 years ago the early church waited with the realization they could see Jesus at any moment (see 1 Thess. 4:15). We walk in that same anticipation today; the delay has not diminished the reality of this hope or our anticipation of the joy of seeing our Savior face to face.

[i] Brown, Colin, editor, Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969) p. 244.

(Excerpt from The Thrill of Hope)