What are some of the signs leading to the return of Jesus? Many are already happening.
terrible times are coming
The apostle Paul, writing about the last days to Timothy, wrote “that in the last days will come difficult times” (2nd Tim 3:1). Does anyone doubt that today we live in difficult times? Violence is escalating, terrorism is on the rise, and the global economy is on shaky ground. Earlier Paul had said “The Spirit expressly says that later some will abandon the faith by devoting themselves to deceiving spirits and the teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1), and clearly this has been happening and is happening at an ever increasing rate. To see theology being replaced by “me-ology” and becoming me-centered instead of Christ-centered is heartbreaking, because it is not a kingdom-seeking first and foremost (Matthew 6:33 ), but the search for “your best life now” above all else. If this is our best life now, then our destiny is not heaven because it will be the best life, so if this is your best life now, then hell must be the next destination.
What other things do you see that make you think we are living in the last days?
What difficulties are you encountering today?
Have you experienced churches, teachers, and pastors straying from the faith?
What does it look like?
It’s all about me
The apostle Paul warned that “people will be in love with themselves, in love with money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, impious” (2 Tim 3:2), and there is no doubt that people are motivated by money, which is all about self. Businesses reduce their products and services but increase their prices because they make more profit. If people are more “self-loving” today, it means they will be “money lovers” also because money is the way they love each other by satisfying the flesh. The more money they can earn, the more love they can show each other (which isn’t really love but greed or idolatry). The human heart is too often “proud, arrogant, abusive…ungrateful and impious.” Can you see the mainstream media touting more sex today than ever before?
Have you seen churches move from preaching and teaching to “getting the most out of life?”
Where has the attention shifted?
Is true discipleship taught today or is the teaching more topological?
Why is explanatory or verse-by-verse preaching the most effective?
A change in teaching/preaching
Instead of being Christocentric, our teaching has become egocentric. Much of our preaching and teaching has shifted from Bible-centered to happiness-centered. Rather than teaching the need to share the sufferings of Christ, some teach how to avoid suffering and be happy. Their goal is to avoid suffering at all costs, and we hear about God wanting us to be prosperous, happy and healthy, but I can’t find that in the Bible. This kind of teaching might fit in the kingdom to come, but not in our world today.
Why do we focus more on ourselves today than on Christ?
What does it mean to share the sufferings of Christ (Rom 8:17; 1 Peter 4:13)?
What kind of prosperity does God want for us (3rd John 1:2)?
21st century society
Paul, continuing to write about the last days, said that mankind will be “heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, puffed up with vanity, loving pleasure rather than lover of God” (2nd Tim 3:3-4). If we look at today’s advertising, movies, television and internet, we can see heartless violence, slanderous talk, a world with little self-control, enemies of good, even calling out good for evil (Isaiah 5:20), besides being treacherous, full of vanity and loving their own pleasure rather than loving God. Looking back 40 years ago, you can easily see the big differences between movies then and movies now, commercials then and commercials now. Advertisers focus on complacency because they know the human heart, at least to some extent.
What are some of the heartless things you’ve seen in your life?
Is self-control a problem in your own life? If so, in what areas do you struggle?
Why are commercials and movies becoming more and more violent and sexually explicit?
Have video games followed a similar pattern?
Does this make you yearn for the return of Jesus?
Angels of Light
Today we have an unlimited number of preachers and teachers who seem about as godly as they come on the outside, but inside they are ravenous wolves. Paul warned that some will have “the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”, so Paul said, “Avoid these kind of people” (2nd Tim 3:5). You cannot tell a biblically sound preacher from a fake one by the way he dresses, looks, or speaks. It’s because “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2nd Cor 11:4), “It is therefore not surprising that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of justice. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2nd Cor 11:4). The main way to distinguish between the false and the true preacher of God is the content in which he preaches. Biblical, explanatory, verse-by-verse preaching should be the rule rather than focusing on making Christians feel better about themselves and not caring about sin.
What elements are missing from many pulpits today?
Why are we so focused on appearance and not content?
Is it difficult to tell the false preacher from the good preacher?
Deviate from the Faith
Finally, the apostle Paul warned us that “the wicked and the impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13), while the pious are persecuted for their trust in Christ (2 Tim 3:12). Even worse, “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itchy ears, they will hoard for themselves teachers suited to their own passions, and will turn away from hearing the truth and wander into the myths” (2nd Tim 4:3-4). Paul wrote this just before or while awaiting his execution, so apparently the Spirit of God warned him of perilous times to come, and I believe they have come. Today, false teachers are “devoting oneself to deceiving spirits and the teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1), and may not even realize it because they too are being deceived.
Why don’t false teachers see their error?
What is “solid teaching?” »
Do you know any “imposters” who claim they are ministers of light?
It is easier to discern error from truth, especially Bible truth, if you are in the Word of God every day. Staying out of the Word can lead to doctrinal errors, but doctrinal errors are exposed when you stay in the Word. If we have the standard for truth, and we have it in the Bible, then we will have a way of spotting error when we hear it or read it. Without a proper understanding of the Word of God, the word of man can deceive us more easily. Yes, we are in the last days, but each day is the “last days” for those who reject Christ because they are a heartbeat away from eternity and each day we get that much closer to the return of Christ every second that passes. Today would be a good day to believe (2nd Cor 6:2), because tomorrow may never come for some of us.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is pastor of Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is the host of Spiritual Fitness and also the senior editor of What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage and energize Christians and answer questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.