Tuesday, August 14, 2012

ENDURING TO THE END



Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (2nd Peter 3:3-4)

For most of the past two thousand years, the scoffers had a point.  In terms of Bible prophecy and the return of Christ, things remained pretty much the same from the close of the Apostolic Era until roughly the beginning of the 20th century.

When Jesus was asked by His disciples, “What shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?”   He began with a warning against deception:

“Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in My Name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4-5)

That was the first sign and for sixteen hundred years, that was the only sign prophecy-watchers had to work with – a succession of popes claiming to be the physical representatives of Christ on earth.  

And all things 'continued as they were' down through the centuries. Until we got to the 20th.

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” (24:6)

Until eclipsed by its successor, the Great War (1914-1918) was called “The War to End All Wars”.  It was the first world war pitting the Western Allies against the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. 

Jesus noted that “all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”   What does that mean?
In 1917 the British government approved the Balfour Declaration which said in part;

“His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

A month later, Lord Allenby captured the city from the defending Turks following an intense battle in which Allenby’s forces incurred 18,000 casualties while the Turks lost more than 25,000.

But it took the events of another world war and its aftermath before the prophesied restoration of Israel as a Jewish homeland was realized in May, 1948.

 “But the end is not yet.”

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (24:7-8)

A month after Israel's declaration of statehood, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on West Berlin. The Western Allies responded to the blockade with the Berlin Airlift to carry supplies over the blockade directly into West Berlin. 

The first overflight took place on June 24, 1948, an events historians credit as marking the start of the Cold War.  That conflict lasted for a half century without either side ever directly firing a shot at the other – the ultimate rumor of war. 

The Cold War was fought around the world in smalle ethnic internal conflicts like those in Africa the two Koreas and the (formerly) two Vietnams.  (“nation against nation” = ethnos against ethnos). The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union following the First Gulf War.

The First Gulf War was a coalition of kingdoms that ultimately blossomed into what has become, from the perspective of al-Qaeda, a war between civilizations.

“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for My Name's sake.”  (24:9)

The 21st century has so far witnessed an unprecedented assault on all things Christian or Jew – the Christian for following Christ and the Jew for rejecting Him. At the same time, nobody dares to offer offense to Islam.
“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” (24:10)
Recall Comedy Central’s predicament of a few months back.  There was a huge protest by both the Christian and Jewish communities over their proposed cartoon series “JC” that mocked both God and Jesus.  The louder the protests, the better Comedy Central liked it.

At almost the very same time, Comedy Central’s “South Park” ran a cartoon featuring Mohammed. The network heavily censored it and even vacated their offices in response to death threats.

“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (24:11-13)

The assault on the Gospel needs no comment.  It is worth mentioning that the most lucrative business model on the internet is the porn business.  Every other day it seems, there is a new report of a family murder-suicide.
“Enduring to the end” -- in context -- is a reference to staying true to the Gospel – an increasingly difficult proposition in the brave new 21st century.

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (24:14)

Do you see the progression?  It is an outline of history that begins with the Balfour Declaration and ends with the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached into all the world for a witness unto all nations – an impossibility before the Internet Age and virtually unavoidable since.

Anywhere that the internet is, the Gospel is there. And there are few places left on earth not wired to the world-wide web.   But when the Gospel has been preached worldwide to all the nations, then comes “the end.”
But according to the Lord, “the end” isn’t the same event as His Second Coming.

Notice what happens after what the Lord describes as “the end.”  His attention shifts to the abomination of desolation that occurs during the Tribulation and His focus narrows to those living in the region of Jerusalem whom He warns to flee.

Note the chronology carefully.  First comes “the end.”  After “the end” comes the abomination of desolation by the antichrist and after that, the Jews are told to flee from Jerusalem. 

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

This 'gathering' is NOT the Rapture. This event takes place after the Tribulation. It is neither secret nor signless – all the tribes of the earth will mourn when they see Him coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

This cannot be the same event described by Paul in 2nd Thessalonians 4:16-18.

 “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

At the Rapture, Jesus doesn’t send His angels to gather the Church, He comes for them Personally.  The Church isn’t gathered from the four winds or from one end of heaven to the other.

It is caught up, first from the grave, and then from the surface of the earth and into the air.  In the Matthew 24:31 event, His elect are gathered from heaven, where they already are.

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints . . .”(Jude 14)

So where are we now?  We’re somewhere between the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached into all the nations and the Rapture of the Church.   That’s a very narrow corridor.   The Lord is coming.

“Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1st Thessalonians 4:18)

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