Thursday, May 13, 2010

Positive Signs

A regular subscriber to this News Wisdom blog asked me a provocative question, “Must every 'sign' of prophecy unfolding be of evil advancing?” The short answer to this is obviously no, but the most striking evidence that we are accelerating toward what Jesus called the “Great Tribulation” in Matthew 24:21 is indeed the growth of evil. The signs Jesus gave us to watch for in His Olivet Discourse were all increasing consequences from evil. Matthew 24:7 says, “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (NKJ).

Scripture also tells us, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). So the growth of evil is a trend we can expect in the world as we get closer to the return of Jesus. However, even with the growth of evil there are still some good developments to watch for as we get closer to the return of Christ…

Jesus indicated that there would be at least one positive trend associated with the end of the age in the Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). The wheat in this parable represents followers of Christ that “grow up” among the followers of Satan. So along with the growth of evil, we can expect to see growth in the Body of Christ. This is in fact happening today in some surprising ways. There is a revival of evangelical Christians in Latin America that is challenging the dominance of the traditional Catholic Church there. And the house church movement is fueling the growth of the Body of Christ in China despite (and maybe because of) the official government animosity toward religious freedom.

Contrary to perception that Christianity is strictly an American religion, there are Bible-believing Christians everywhere. This is true even in Muslim countries though believers keep quiet about their faith there due to persecution. I’ve heard some pretty incredible stories about Muslim conversions to Christ involving direct revelations of Jesus. If the Church is not permitted to operate, God will make a way to save those who He chooses to save (consider Luke 19:40).

I think the direct revelation conversions of people living in Islamic cultures is a sign that we are beginning to see the “latter rain” of the Holy Spirit spoken of by the prophet Joel. Peter referred to this at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit first indwelt the Church (see Acts 2:16-18). Joel 2:28 says, “it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” I take it that the “former rain” of Joel 2:23 refers to the pouring out of God’s Spirit at Pentecost and the “latter rain” is when this happens similarly at the end of the age.

The fact that miraculous conversions are occurring in Islamic countries where Christian missionaries are forbidden tells us that we are close to the end of the Age of Grace. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” It is the Lord’s plan to save at least a remnant of people from all nations. The Church will praise Jesus in heaven singing, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). We are seeing Jesus build this diverse body of believers today despite the best efforts of Satan and his followers to squelch it.

Another set of positive signs are technological advancements that help us see how God can fulfill prophecy through natural means. I made some comments about this in my blog yesterday. Daniel 12:4 says, “but you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” The growth of travel has been striking. Throughout most of history the furthest anyone could go in a day was about 30 miles with the assistance of a horse. Now this is the average daily commute for Americans. And in the last few decades it has become pretty routine to travel to the other side of the earth within a day. In a general sense we are seeing knowledge increase today in the growth of the Internet. And more significantly, developments are giving us better insight into what the prophetic Scriptures tell us is going to happen. More and more of the puzzle pieces are fitting together in our day.

It is inevitable that evil will advance until Christ returns. But the good news to believers is that Christ is returning. And what appears to be bad news from a worldly perspective really can be good news from a biblical perspective. For example, Jesus was executed by a slow and painful method… pretty bad news from a purely human perspective. But God has a way of turning bad news by human standards into good news when you consider the spiritual implications. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified in order to pay the penalty for our sins. Thus, God turned a human tragedy into the greatest event in all of history.

When I draw attention to the bad things indicating we are close to the Tribulation, Bible-believing Christians should be mindful that this time period is preceded by the Rapture where followers of Jesus will be given immortal bodies and ushered into God's presence. This point is certainly lost on those who do not follow Christ... it is pretty fantastic and can only be understood by those who have been blessed with the faith to believe. But anyone may join us; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31, NKJ). This is an open offer to everyone because, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

I pray that all who read this have already chosen or will choose to spend eternity with Christ before their opportunity to do so expires.

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