In the Western world we are locked into "linear time" (chronos). We take pride in having the most accurate clocks anywhere. Striving to make the best use of our time, it seems we're often driven to perform just to please the boss, and to maximize our daily productivity no matter how hectic life becomes. What matters to God is not quantity, but quality.
A more common kind of time, the time scale of greater importance in a Biblical world-view, is measured in time segments called seasons (chairos). (SeeThe Complexities of Time).
"To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace. What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in our hearts, so that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor--it is the gift of God. I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15)
The great Bible scholar, Archbishop Trench of Dublin (1807-1866), wrote
"It is during the times of stress that the real character of human beings comes to the surface, that raw ugly sores open in society and the situation becomes dangerous and violent. Astrologers would describe such times as arising from most unfortunate aspects of the planets all lining up at once."
Trench was commenting on Paul's word to Timothy,
"Understand this: In the last times there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Avoid such people..." (1 Timothy 3:1-5)
(See Seasons of Stress in the World, http://ldolphin.org/Stress.html).
When a season of peace in the world follows a long-lasting war, people relax and begin to resume their more normal living patterns. When the rains come after a long and devastating drought, prayers of thanks are spontaneous. When hard times come, we easily panic and resist change even though changes are inevitable in life.
In recent months, Summer and Fall 2008, a whole set of accumulating tensions in our society have been coming to the surface, rather abruptly in time, on more than one frontier. God is in charge in every season of life, and He is moving our whole planet towards a time of restoration of all things.
Our Lord is gradually removing the restraints on human evil on earth; we will all soon see openly the consequences of our rebellion against God, and the full extent of the evil resident in us. Evil must run its full course. The movers and shakers in high places may think they can work everything out and save the existing world order, but God will have His Day and no one can stop it from coming to pass.
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
"Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless'" (2 Peter 3:10-14).
Looking carefully at the Bible, it is clear that the long-promised great golden age of peace on earth could take place in as little as seven years from now. Or it could be delayed by a hundred years. God alone knows. Scripture is clear that things will get worse on many fronts, before they get better. For two thousand years, as we have been told by Jesus, there would be wars, rumors of war, earthquakes, famines, and great deception (Matthew 24).
Looking back on the past fifty years, I see changes in our day that I never would have believed possible when I was in college.
Sex, Marriage, Family
Back in the '40s divorce in America was very rare—about 8% as I recall. Now it is 50% even among Christians (http://www.divorcereform.org/rates.html). As a boy I took it for granted that one simply did not divorce for any reason, even if one had to live with a difficult marriage. Parents had to stick it out for the duration, if only for the well-being of the kids. I remember when divorced men were shunned by prospective employers!
Marriage vows are covenants (solemn promises by the parties involved), and God takes covenants very seriously. Where would we be, or instance, if Jesus Christ annulled his marriage plans with us, His church—for good cause? But ours is no longer a covenant keeping society. We have been unfaithful in our vows to God and so we also do not keep our promises and commitments.
One of the rationalizations for easy divorce in recent decades has been the claim that our children would be better off if their unhappy parents parted company. Now, however, it's clear that divorce is very damaging, and permanently so, to children of any age.
No one us has a God-given right to pursue his or her personal dreams and ambitions at the expense of home and family. But our life-style norms in this country are now quite the opposite of what God asks of us. The model Jesus gave us is one of integrity and faithfulness in all we do, of self-giving love, dying to our own selfishness, and sacrificially giving ourselves to the well-being of others.
Consequences? Countless men and women in the younger generation are growing up now with no positive examples of a good marriage for them to imitate. (Most animals throw their offspring out of the nest a short season after birth, but human boys and girls need nearly two decades of nurturing and training). Children need role models of how a man or a woman is supposed to live in a world under God. Functioning parents and quality family life forms the fabric of society.
In the '40s sexual immorality was very rare, gays were still in the closet. Adultery was scandalous, sex before marriage was unthinkable. Now? Starting in Middle School, children are taught that they need to find their own personal sexual preferences. They should begin to be exploring their sexuality as soon as possible, says the teacher. Sexually abstinent virgins of either sex are now ridiculed as weird and dysfunctional--from junior high school and up.
A slick magazine from Stanford, which came to me this summer, contained an article by one of the deans at the University who noted that Stanford students were cohabitating regularly. She said that "hook ups" were now common on campus. I had to ask someone. Hook Ups, I learned, are brief sexual encounters arranged on the spot--one-time-only sexual encounters with a partial stranger of either sex. Then I learned that there was now a whole new generation of younger homosexuals (aged 16-25) who find it emotionally "safer" and easier to go for same sex partnerships rather than trying for a more demanding marriage relationship, especially when there is not much support coming from parents on both sides.
Without good role models for manhood and womanhood, and with generally poor models of what marriage is suppose to look like, living temporarily with a girl friend (or a boyfriend) seems the best way to live for many in the younger set today. Like marriage, "the church" is also widely believed to be an archaic, irrelevant institution having nothing important to say to the next generation.
Is our whole nation now more like Sodom and Gomorrah than ever before? Could be. But, there is a greater evil than widespread sexual immorality, which Jesus made known to the people of Israel.
After their preliminary training, Jesus sent out 70 disciples to the cities and towns of Israel charging them to clearly announce of the coming of His kingdom here on earth. Terrible consequences would come upon all those who ignored the calling of Jesus:
'But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.'
'But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city. 'Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 'But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 'And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades. 'He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.' (Luke 10:10-16)
Societies which have lost their family structure have also lost their root values. Today the fabric of society has been ripped apart and can no longer hold together. Ours is a nation that has been evangelized thoroughly, so we not in the same boat as the ancient cities of Chorazin, Tyre, Sidon, and Capernaum? Will God judge us a nation? Yes, He must. Has judgment now begun? Quite possibility it has.
Religion, God, Spirituality
Tolerance is the name of the game in our national life at this time. "Moral standards are relative, there are no absolutes. One religion is as good as any other. We really can no longer tolerate the claims of extremists such as Jesus Christ; He was too divisive:"
'Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 'But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. 'Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 'For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; 'and ‘a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' 'He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 'And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 'He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. 'He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 'He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 'And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.' (Matthew 10:32-42)
Our crowded planet has a population of almost 6.9 billion people, doubling every 70 years or less. Can our earth hold more people? Like it or not we well may be running out of oil and other basic resources. Most experts believe we can't survive globally unless there are stronger international controls constraining our behavior (such as a world police corps and courts which have global authority, overruling the sovereignty of individual nations).
It is now widely believed that the various religions of the world must be united under common religious values, and one central authority. The reality that this will actually happen has been spelled out for us in black and white in holy Scripture. A church for all peoples, tongues, and nations is already beginning to be formed. This one world religious system will of necessity exclude the true followers of Jesus (we are too divisive). The coming one-world church will even be backed and supported by earth's coming one-world government. The culmination of this great evil system, and its horrific end, is given to us in Revelation 17. Symbolized by a seducing prostitute, this false church will further deceive and then destroy all those who have rejected the authority of Jesus Christ in the lives. The fake church is beginning to come together even now. (see The Dragon Lady, by Ray Stedman).
Deception will be the mark of the very last years before Christ returns. It is already here. Every area of life on earth is now permeated with a multitude of clever lies aimed at thwarting the work of God among men. Ignoring the truths God has given us has serious consequences. Paul the Apostle warned,
"Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12)
The one great lie the Apostle mentions here is THE lie of the Garden of Eden-- from the serpent to Eve: "You can be your own god. You are in charge. You can do whatever you want in this life."
Contrast this with the clear statement of the Bible,
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him [Jesus] and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11, also Romans 14:10-12)
Money, Commerce, Banking, Trade
God intends that man should live under standards of fair trade and exchange, honest weights and measures. Usury (charging excessively high interest rates) is forbidden to us. This is all made quite clear in the Bible beginning in the book of Genesis. Our Lord has always expected His people to be honest and fair to the n-th degree in all our dealings with our fellow man.
The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. A king who sits on the throne of judgment scatters all evil with his eyes. Who can say, 'I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin'?
Diverse weights and diverse measures, They are both alike, an abomination to the LORD. Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right. The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both." (Proverbs 20:7-12)
We human beings are by nature selfish, greedy, deceptive, covetous. Generally we bathe in the love of worldly gain and pleasure. Our attempts to deceive, to overcharge, to cheat, to gain wealth and power at the expense of others, are held in check by society and culture to some extent. But these safe guards are eroding away rapidly. The words of the Apostle John fall on deaf ears most of the time:
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." (1 John 2:15-17)
Ancient Tyre and Sidon were powerful city-states at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean (now in Lebanon). They were prosperous in all they did for two millennia, and they accumulated great wealth. Based on outward appearances, their business and trading skills might easily be emulated today by other nations and corporations. But God did not think these people deserved to be honored and commended. He asked for them to be destroyed. And they were. Ezekiel Chapters 26-28 details God's indictment of these nations.
The word of the LORD came to me [Ezekiel] again, saying, 'Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: 'Because your heart is lifted up, And you say, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods, In the midst of the seas,' Yet you are a man, and not a god, Though you set your heart as the heart of a god (Behold, you are wiser than Daniel! There is no secret that can be hidden from you! With your wisdom and your understanding You have gained riches for yourself, And gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; By your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches, And your heart is lifted up because of your riches),' ‘Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: 'Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god, Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you, The most terrible of the nations; And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom, And defile your splendor. They shall throw you down into the Pit, And you shall die the death of the slain In the midst of the seas. 'Will you still say before him who slays you, ‘I am a god'? But you shall be a man, and not a god, In the hand of him who slays you. You shall die the death of the uncircumcised By the hand of aliens; For I have spoken,' says the Lord GOD.'' (Ezekiel 28:1-10)
Ray Stedman notes,
"Here you find the reasons why man is debauched and degraded, and Ezekiel sets forth the righteousness of God's judgment. When man chooses to avoid the God who made him. what else is there but judgment? If we neglect God, who is utterly essential to our being, and we refuse to give heed to his love and his grace. then the only thing left for us is to experience the results of turning our backs to him.
The prophet sees through all the judgment that came upon this people, he sees through to the forces behind. In chapter 28 there is a remarkable passage where the prophet speaks about the judgment upon the land of Tyre and Sidon. He speaks of the prince of Tyre and, behind him, an individual whom he calls the king of Tyre.
Most Bible scholars have recognized that because of the height of vision from which this prophet speaks, he is talking not only about the actual prince of the city of Tyre -- the man who was then on the throne in that seafaring city -- but he is looking beyond him and the visible things of Tyre, to that sinister individual he calls the king of Tyre. This king symbolizes what are referred to in the New Testament as principalities and powers, the world rulers of this present darkness who manipulate things on earth and cause events we see recorded in our daily newspapers. In other words, these are the Satanic powers'" (http://www.raystedman.org/adventure/0226.html).
It is difficult for us to identify the strongholds of our enemy Satan which have become deeply embedded in all of the human institutions of our world. This corruption of the world system began back with a man named Nimrod, the grandson of Noah's son Ham, who turned away from God and God's people to build cities for himself. Not only was his new religion corrupt, the network of commerce, trade, banking and exchange of ancient Babylon set aside the rule of God among men. Man, it was said, could become not only powerful, but also rich, merely by living according to the permissive rules of the game which Nimrod established.
Civilization as we know it today began at Babylon and the evils of this city have since permeated every nation in the world, at every level.
When Jesus Christ returns and sets the world economy on its proper foundation again, can he accomplish this by means of minor changes and reforms? There is no way such a corrupt system can be fixed without demolishing the old system entirely. This God will do. It's outlined for us in Revelation Chapter 18. It will be very traumatic for most everyone when it happens.
We now live at the very end of an age. The next world-shattering event will be the return of Jesus to our planet. This will take place in two phases: First the removal of those few who now belong to Him and who follow Him. Seven years later Jesus will openly appear in splendor, taking His place as our planet's rightful king from His throne in Jerusalem. (See What's This World Coming to: The Olivet Discourse).
Is this about to all come down? Quite possibility, yes. While we can't set dates, we can look at the accelerating rate of one world crisis after other, the "distress of the nations." Is the current economic crisis in our country a temporary adjustment or a sign of the end of the age? God knows.
The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah. 'I will utterly consume everything From the face of the land,' Says the LORD; 'I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, The fish of the sea, And the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land''
Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD; For the day of the LORD is at hand, For the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; He has invited His guests. 'And it shall be, In the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, That I will punish the princes and the king's children, And all such as are clothed with foreign apparel. In the same day I will punish All those who leap over the threshold, Who fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit. 'And there shall be on that day,' says the LORD, 'The sound of a mournful cry from the Fish Gate, A wailing from the Second Quarter, And a loud crashing from the hills. Wail, you inhabitants of Maktesh!
For all the merchant people are cut down; All those who handle money are cut off. 'And it shall come to pass at that time That I will search Jerusalem with lamps, And punish the men Who are settled in complacency, Who say in their heart, ‘The LORD will not do good, Nor will He do evil.' Therefore their goods shall become booty, And their houses a desolation; They shall build houses, but not inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards, but not drink their wine.'
The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; There the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, A day of trouble and distress, A day of devastation and desolation, A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of trumpet and alarm Against the fortified cities And against the high towers. 'I will bring distress upon men, And they shall walk like blind men, Because they have sinned against the LORD; Their blood shall be poured out like dust, And their flesh like refuse.' Neither their silver nor their gold Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the LORD'S wrath; But the whole land shall be devoured By the fire of His jealousy, For He will make speedy riddance Of all those who dwell in the land." (Zephaniah 1)
Is there a way for any of us to escape this most terrible time of trouble, soon to come upon our earth and its inhabitants? Yes, indeed. We still live in a day of God's favor, of grace and mercy.
As always, God's judgments begin first with His own people, He holds us accountable for the truth we have received and how we have responded to that truth. It will not be an easy-out for any of as Peter tells us:
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now 'If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?' Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:17-19)
Hang in! Call upon and cling to Jesus! Soak in His word, the Bible! Stay closely knit with other Christians of like mind. Confess your sins and keep your slate clean so you can use used by Him. The Lord is coming soon!
"And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved."
(Recommended: A survey of events marking the end of the age, The Fate of the Earth, by Ray Stedman,.)
December 5, 2008, September 20, 2018. December 28, 2019.