Are we living in the end times?
Does the Bible talk about what is happening in the world today?
Are we seeing the signs Jesus told us to watch for?
Is the rapture of the Church going to occur soon?
These are just some of the questions I have been asked in just the past few months, and in all honesty, with much greater frequency in just the past few weeks. So much so, that I have decided to start this blog in an effort to try to not only answer those questions and others, but to try to help explain just what is occurring in the world right now.
For those of you who know me or have heard me teach, it should come as no surprise that the subject of these pages will be the imminent return of Christ for His people, and an affirmation that we are fast approaching the end of the world as we know it. That has been the preeminent subject of my teaching for years. What you may not understand, however, is why I have chosen to focus on Gods prophecies concerning the end of the world to such an extent. So allow me to share briefly the reasoning behind what some have described as my "obsession" with the second coming of Christ.
Let's look first at what Jesus taught in the book of Mark, chapter 13, verses 28-37. Here we find Jesus explaining to His disciples that just before His return there would be numerous signs given as a warning that the end was near. He concludes by commanding four times that His followers should "watch" for these signs so as not to be surprised. Now I doubt that many of you would disagree with me in concluding that a command from God is not something to be taken lightly, and that to disobey or ignore a command would be sin. So obviously the first reason I teach what I teach is that I want to obey Gods command to watch. The second reason can be found in the Old Testament where God is instructing His prophet Ezekiel. In chapter 33 of the book of Ezekiel, God appoints Ezekiel to be a "watchman" for the nation of Israel. What we might want to focus on though is what God says to him in verse 6 where God makes it very clear that if a watchman fails in his duty to warn the people, their blood will be on his hands. So the picture painted here for us as believers is one of responsibility to not only watch for the signs of Jesus' return, but to warn others of what we see. That is the primary reason I have chosen to study prophecy, and to teach about the signs of Jesus return.
There are, though, other reasons that motivate me to choose to do what I do, and I would like to share just a few of those with you also. I have observed over the years that one thing most all believers have in common is the fact that at one time or another we all struggle in our walk in the Lord. The Bible makes it pretty clear that the world will not appreciate our decision to follow God, and we can expect to be attacked at most any time. Yet in the book of Titus, Paul tells us in chapter 2, verses 11-13 that one way we can get the help we need is to look "for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ". If our focus is above, it's pretty hard to get bogged down with the problems we face down here. So the advice we seem to get from Paul is to watch for signs of Jesus' return as inspiration to keep walking the way we should, and to receive the strength we so desperately need.
Another reason to study prophecy might be the thought that most of us have experienced the gratification that comes from being rewarded for doing something. Rewards are nice to receive, and can serve as a motivation to do even more. God is perfectly aware of this, so it should not come as a surprise that He is willing to reward us for doing His will. Yet I am amazed sometimes that most Christians seem to be unaware that in the book of Revelation, which comes directly from Jesus through John the Apostle, offers a reward to those who study it! In chapter 1, verse 3, Jesus says that those who read and study the prophecies of Revelation will be "blessed"! So how is that for motivation? The book of Revelation is the only book which actually promises the reader will be blessed if he reads, hears, and keeps the things that are written in it. Maybe that explains why some people can't get enough of that book!
Now let me give you what I consider to be the best reason of all for studying prophecy. Although receiving help in our walk, and being blessed on earth sound pretty good, it's just the beginning. I have had the priviledge over the years to hear wonderful teaching from a great many pastors and teachers. One of my favorite quotes comes from Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California who said, "you can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead". He goes on to explain that we need to be making deposits in the bank of Heaven, so we can enjoy our rewards for eternity. Paul obviously had this idea in mind when he says in 2 Timothy 4:8 that he would receive a crown of righteousness in heaven because he spent his time down here looking forward to Jesus' return. He goes on to say that not only will he receive that crown, but anyone else who looks forward to and "loves" Jesus' appearing. What does it mean to love Jesus' return? Let's put it this way, I was blessed with three daughters and seem to recall that when a boy was coming over to visit, or to pick them up, they seemed to spend a LOT of time looking out the window and watching for them to show up. Do you as a believer want Jesus to return so much that you spend a lot of time looking and watching for Him? By doing so, Paul tells us we will receive a crown of righteousness in heaven.
So what are my reasons for being "obsessed" with watching for signs of Jesus' return? Well, God has commanded us to watch, warned us what will happen if we don't, and promised us a reward for doing so, not only on this earth but in Heaven as well. In the weeks ahead I plan to try and show and explain how the events occuring in the world right now are in fact the signs that Jesus told us would preceed the rapture of the Church, and the Second Coming at the end of this age. How close is it? Well, another of my favorite quotes comes from Chuck Smith, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. When he was asked how close we are to the rapture he said this, "when you see the Christmas decorations going up, you know that Thanksgiving is near". People, what we are seeing right now is the world being decorated for the period of time the Bible calls the Tribulation. All of what we see happening is simply preparation for what is to come, something we could describe as the time of "one". One world monetary system, one world religion, one world government, and of course, the one man who will presume to govern the entire world. If we see the decorations going up right before our eyes, you tell me, how close do YOU think the rapture of the church is?