Friday, May 26, 2006

What the Future Holds (6)

This is part 6 of chapter 10 of my book, Biblical Glasses.

Is it coming soon?

David Reagan has studied Biblical end times prophecy for about thirty years. His views, which I have summarized and quoted from below, give plenty of Biblical reasons to understand and be excited about living in these end times. Reagan begins by saying:

God is no Cosmic Teddy Bear. Most people tend to think of Him in that way, and
they therefore believe that when they stand before God, He will reach out and
put His big warm furry arm around them and say, ‘Well, I know you never did live
a very good life; I know you boozed it up all the time and chased women; I know
you never accepted My Son as your Lord and Savior; but you lived so much better
than that old reprobate down the street from you, and since I grade on the
curve, you just come on into My Kingdom.’
We can be certain it will not happen like that! God will deal with sin, and He will do so “in one of two ways: Grace or Wrath. You are under either the grace of God or the wrath of God.” Because Jesus is returning in great wrath to judge and wage war (see Revelation 19:11), and because He does not wish that any should perish, but that all would be brought to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:9), God always warns before He judges in wrath. He is obligated to do so by His unchanging character. We see this throughout the Old Testament; the prophets constantly warned of God’s impending judgment.

Throughout most of the Bible, Jesus is shown coming to earth for the first time as the Lamb of God, Who wipes away our sins. But the Book of Revelation, along with other critical eschatological verses, point to Jesus coming for the second time in wrath as the Lion of Judah, judge of the world. Reagan says, “Jesus came the first time as an expression of God’s love; He came to die for the sins of mankind. But when He returns, He will come in vengeance to pour out the wrath of God on those who have rejected God’s love and grace.”
So how are we being warned today that God’s final judgment is near? The Bible speaks in great detail about signs we can look for as the end draws near. Reagan lists many “signs of the times,” which include the following categories:

1) Signs of Nature
2) Signs of Society
3) Spiritual Signs
4) Signs of Technology
5) Political Signs
6) Signs of Israel

Beginning with the signs of nature, Reagan says people do not respect these types of signs, because natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, famines, pestilences, etc., have been occurring for thousands of years. But people do not realize that these natural disasters are increasing like “birth pangs,” just as Jesus says in Matthew 24. Reagan casually expresses:

Now, I’ve never had birth pangs, so I went to my wife one time when I first
started studying Bible prophecy and I said, ‘What in the world does the Lord
mean by that?’ She said, ‘Oh, you dummy, any mother knows what that means.’ She
then explained that the closer a pregnant woman gets to the delivery of her
baby, the birth pangs increase in two ways. They increase in frequency and
intensity. … Get a World Almanac. Look up the statistics in it, and you’ll see
that ever since this century began, we have been experiencing an increasing
frequency and intensity in all our natural calamities. The statistics are
overwhelm­ing. It’s as if God is shaking all of nature and shaking it
harder, and harder, and harder, the closer we get to the coming of Jesus.

Not only are there more terrible events occurring, but they are also getting worse when they occur. Reagan says, “Another reason these signs are given little respect is because most Christians are so rationalistic that they do not really believe in the supernatural, and they therefore find it difficult to believe that God speaks to the world through signs of nature.” But God has always used natural events, such as floods and famines, locust invasions and earthquakes, and even lights in the sky, to get our attention.

Next, Reagan points to the signs of society as evidence that the end is near. “Jesus said that society will become increasingly lawless and immoral as the time approaches for His return. In fact, He said it would become as evil as it was in the days of Noah (see Matthew 24:12,37-39).” Reagan uses the third chapter of Paul’s second letter to Timothy to depict end times society “characterized by three loves: The love of self (Humanism), the love of money (Materialism), and the love of pleasure (Hedonism).” Those sure do sound familiar! Reagan says, “We are seeing these prophecies fulfilled before our eyes today as we watch our society reject its Christian heritage and descend into a hellish pit of lawlessness, immorality, and despair.” The Bible says:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and
light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those
who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Woe to those who
are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks, who acquit the
guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent. … They have rejected the
law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the Word of the Holy One of Israel.
Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against His people; His hand is raised and He
strikes them down. The mountains shake, and the dead bodies are like refuse in
the streets. … In that day … if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and
distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds (Isaiah 5:20-25,30).
The third category of indications that the end times are near consists of spiritual signs. Reagan breaks this category into positive and negative signs. He defines the negative signs as including:

- The appearance of false Christs and their cults (see Matthew 24:5,11,24)
- The apostasy of the professing Church (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3)
- An outbreak of Satanism (see 1 Timothy 4:1)
- The persecution of faithful Christians (see Matthew 24:9)

As we saw in chapter eight, Christian cults, such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Christ Scientist, and the Unitarian Church, began forming in the 1800s. These cults recognize a false Christ, just as Jesus said they would. Reagan points to the 1920s, when American seminaries began “teaching that the Bible is man’s search for God rather than God’s revelation to man,” as the beginnings of apostasy within the true Christian denominations. The Bible says:

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of
themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their
parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without
self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but
denying its power
. … The time will come when men will not put up with sound
doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a
great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will
turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 3:1-5,
4:3-4, emphasis added).
Unfortunately, the Church today is full of preachers who deny all the critical elements of the Christian faith—that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God; that Jesus was born of a virgin; that Jesus was resurrected from the dead; that He will come again; etc. As Reagan says, “There is no area of Christianity immune to the apostasy sweeping through the Church today, and it’s all a sign of the soon return of Jesus.” Moving on, the 1960s, according to Reagan, saw the rise of Satanism (the occult) primarily through tabloids, television programs, and movies such as Rosemary’s Baby. Of course, these trends have continued growing into the culture of the twenty-first century. Reagan concludes his thoughts on the negative spiritual signs by saying, “As society has secularized, true Christianity has come under increasing attack. Judeo-Christian values, once the foundation of western civilization, are now openly mocked, and those who still adhere to them are castigated as ‘intolerant fundamentalists’ by the media.”

Although these negative signs are extremely negative, the positive signs, which Reagan lists as follows, are gloriously positive:

- The proclamation of the Gospel to the whole world (see Matthew 24:14)
- A great outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Joel 2:28-32)
- Spiritual illumination to understand prophecies sealed up until the end times (see Daniel 12:4,9)

As mentioned earlier, the message of the Gospel has been translated into all major languages and proclaimed to nearly the entire world; how fitting that over half the people who have ever lived are alive today to hear that wonderful message of salvation! Jesus said: “And this Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). Technology, the next category of signs, has made this possible!

Reagan suggests that the great pouring out of the Holy Spirit was prophesied by Joel—the latter rain (see Joel 2:23)—to occur both at the first Pentecost and after the Jews had returned to their land. Of course, Israel was re-established in 1948, and Billy Graham and Oral Roberts began worldwide evangelical ministries in 1949. Without a doubt, there are more people coming to faith in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit than ever before! Finally, Reagan points to 1970 and Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth, as the time when end times prophecies were beginning to be understood.

As mentioned above, the signs of technology are next. Enhanced travel and communication capabilities have allowed for human knowledge to increase like never before. Satellite technology enables me to sit at my computer and look at a live picture of a beach in Tahiti! I can book a flight to that beach, along with a hotel suite, in just a few minutes online! Prior to the twentieth century, I would have had no idea what Tahiti beaches looked like and a very difficult time arranging a trip to visit them.

Reagan offers the following facts of interest: “By the time an encyclopedia is published today, it is already out of date. Three-fourths of all the scientists who have ever lived are alive right now. More than half of all medicines have been developed since the end of World War II.” He points to robotics and lasers and identification chips as critical for end times prophecies to come true. He is intrigued by the possibility of worldwide destruction like never before due to the splitting of the atom and the power of weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps Luke points to the use of nuclear weapons in the end times when he writes Jesus said: “Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Luke 21:26).

The fifth sign of the nearness of the end times is that of world politics. Reagan says, “The Bible prophesies that there will be a certain pattern of world politics that will characterize the end times geopolitical map.” Israel will be re-established as a nation (see Zechariah 12:2-3), something not even conceived possible before World War II. Israel will be attacked by a nation to its north, perhaps Russia (see Ezekiel 38:2,6). Reagan says, “Democracy has no chance whatsoever [in Russia], because the traditions and values which are necessary for democracy do not exist.”

The nation of China will be capable of sending an army of 200 million into battle at its convenience (see Revelation 9:13-16, 16:12-13). As we have already discussed, a third source of danger to Israel will be the Arab nations immediately surrounding it (see Ezekiel 35:10, 36:2). Reagan also considers the United Nations or “a coalition of European nations” to be a key player on the world political scene in the end times. He believes the European Union “will form a confederation centered in the area of the old Roman Empire (see Daniel 2:41-44, 7:7,23-24; Revelation 17:12-13).” This could not have been possible prior to the times in which we currently live.

The euro, the single currency of many European nations, is just the first step to this type of union. Some say this union will unknowingly aid the rise of the antichrist (see Daniel 7:8). To conclude the political signs, we can mention civil wars, international wars, and rumors of wars (see Matthew 24:6-7), along with “general international terrorism and lawlessness (see Matthew 24:12).” Reagan adds that on average, since the end of World War II, forty wars throughout the world have been going on at any given time!

The final category of signs, and the most critical according to Reagan, involves the nation of Israel. See Isaiah 11:10-12 and Isaiah 66:7-8 for prophecies regarding Israel’s re-gathering and re-establishment as a nation. The Jewish people have been returning to the Promised Land, moving back to Israel, since the beginning of the twentieth century. According to Reagan, “there were only 40,000 Jews in Israel in 1900; there were 500,000 at the end of World War II; today there are over 5 million, and they are continuing to come in unprecedented numbers from all over the world, particularly Russia.”

Additionally, Reagan says, “Once the Jews are back in their land, the land itself will experience a miracle of reclamation (see Isaiah 35). The desert will bloom and people will exclaim, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden’ (see Ezekiel 36:35).” Reagan discusses Mark Twain’s trip to the Middle East in the mid-1860s. Twain wrote about the wasteland he saw in Innocents Abroad. The land consisted mostly of treeless desert and malaria-infested swampland. As mentioned earlier, the Arabs sold the land to the Jews for outrageous prices, even though it was practically worthless. Reagan says, “The Israelis have planted over 400 million trees all over the land, and rainfall has increased over 450 percent.” They worked hard to rid the land of its nasty swamps and deserts, transforming it into an Eden of sorts. Israel today has blossomed back into “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8, among others), like it was when Israel first existed as a nation.

Another end time miracle will be the revival of the Hebrew language (see
Zephaniah 3:9). Most people are not aware of the fact that when the Jews were
dispersed from their land in 70 A.D., they ceased to speak the Hebrew language.
The Jews who settled in Europe developed a new language called Yiddish, a
combination of German and Hebrew. The Jews who migrated to the Mediterranean
basin created a language called Ladino, a combination of Hebrew and Spanish. [A
man named Eliezer Ben Yehuda] spent his life trying to revive the Hebrew
language, a language that hadn’t been spoken in almost 2000 years. He had to
invent thousands of new words based upon ancient Hebrew root words. It seemed an
impossible task, but he accomplished it, and today, Biblical Hebrew is the
official language of Israel.
Another sign of Israel is “the resurgence of Israeli military strength.” According to Reagan, Zechariah 12:6 effectively says: “In the end times, God will restore the Jews to their homeland and make them militarily superior to all their neighbors.” Israel’s military is one of the top four in the world, despite the nation’s small size! Israel has been involved in at least six major wars in the past fifty years, and although their foes seemed to have the upper hand, they have always been victorious. “What a miracle for a nation smaller than New Jersey and with a population less than the city of Philadelphia!”

Reagan considers Israel to be God’s prophetic time clock. He points to two critical events in Israel’s history as signs that Jesus’ return is imminent. First is the re-occupation of Jerusalem, which occurred “on June 7, 1967, when Israel won the city back during the Six Day War.” Reagan says:

When those Jewish soldiers went to the Wailing Wall [in Jerusalem] and fell upon
their faces and began to weep before that wall, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the chief
Rabbi of the Israeli Army, came up to the wall and blew a shofar. Then, he
lifted his hand and said, ‘I proclaim to you the beginning of the Messianic
Age.’ You see, the Orthodox Jews know that the Messiah is coming soon. That’s
one of the paradoxes of our time. Think about it. The first time Jesus came, the
Gentiles recognized Him; the Jews did not. This time, the Jews are the ones who
know the Messiah is about to come. That’s because they know the Old Testament
Scriptures, and from them, they know that the Messiah will come when the Jews
are back in the land and back in their city. The Orthodox Jews are waiting for
the Messiah, expecting Him any moment. They’re yearning for Him.
Second, and more important, is the re-establishment of Israel as a nation, which, as we learned, occurred on May 14, 1948. Jesus illustrated the importance of this event in His Olivet Discourse with the barren fig tree. “He said to watch for it to bloom again. In other words, He said to watch for the rebirth of Israel (see Matthew 24:33).” That is one sign the end is near!

Jesus said in the same passage: “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:34, emphasis added). Reagan asks, “What generation is Jesus talking about?” Many people say Jesus was incorrect in His prophecy, because the generation to whom He was speaking—the apostles—clearly passed away within sixty or seventy years of His prophecy; Israel did not return in that short time span. But Reagan understands Jesus’ prophecy to mean “the generation that sees the fig tree blossom.”

Reagan suggests that someone alive in 1948, when “the fig tree blossomed,” when Israel became a nation again, will be alive to see the second coming of Christ. Now it is extremely dangerous to play guessing games on the date of the second coming, but if Reagan’s interpretation of Scripture is correct, then we can be certain Jesus is coming soon!

The Rapture could occur as you are reading this! However, it could also be fifty years or more from now. While we cannot know the exact date or time of Christ’s return, we can know the season. The Bible offers plenty of warning; the signs are all around. As we discussed above, eschatological views vary among Christian scholars. We may not agree on the order of events, but we can be sure Christ will return.

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