Dealing With End Times Complacency - Britt Gillette -
In 1970, Hal Lindsey published The Late Great Planet Earth. The book sold millions of copies and introduced a generation to the miraculous fulfillment of end times bible prophecies in our day and time. Coming on the heels of World War II, the rebirth of Israel, the Six Day War, and widespread societal upheaval, many were convinced the rapture would take place before the end of the decade. But the 1970's came and went, and Jesus did not return. Then, in the 1980's and 1990's, numerous bible prophecy books with titles like "Countdown to Armageddon" and "Final Warning" sold all over the world. Again, many people were convinced Jesus would return before the end of the century. Yet Jesus didn't come. Then the world experienced Y2K, the September 11th terrorist attacks, and the phenomenal success of the Left Behind series. Once again, it seemed as though Jesus would return at any moment. But once again, he didn't. And then something happened. Complacency set it.
End Times Burnout
Because Jesus hadn't come, many Christians began to openly doubt whether He ever would. Why? I believe there are at least two reasons. First, we live in a culture that demands instant gratification. We don't like to wait as little as two minutes for a microwave to cook a meal it took our grandparents half a day to prepare. We're impatient, and we're used to getting what we want when we want.
The second reason is the errant predictions of date setters. False prophets such as Harold Camping and Edgar Whisenant told the world Jesus would return on specific dates - even though Jesus said "no one knows the day or hour" (Matthew 24:36). The media gives widespread attention to these predictions. When these days come and go, the false prophets are exposed. This leads to ridicule of bible prophecy, and in some cases, even Christian leaders publicly dismiss bible prophecy as a playground for crackpots and the ignorant. But these critics forget false prophets made these claims, not the Bible. The Bible's track record remains perfect. In fact, the Bible predicted this complacency long ago.
The Bible Said This Would Happen
Almost two thousand years ago, Peter issued a warning. He said in the last days people will deny the signs we see today. He said they'll mock the idea of Jesus returning. They'll make fun of those who believe in the Second Coming and say the exact things we hear today - things like, "I thought Jesus was coming back? What happened to His promise? Generation after generation has said He's coming. Yet, since the beginning of the world, everything has remained the same!" (2 Peter 3:3 - 4). You've probably heard variations of this complaint yourself. Maybe you've heard it in church. But is it true? No. It's not. Nothing could further from the truth.
Are Things The Same As They've Always Been?
To say the world is the same today as in years past - that we don't live in unique times - is just not true. More than any other generation, ours has reason to expect the Second Coming. Jesus and the prophets said to look for specific signs heralding the end times. For over 1,800 years, you couldn't find one of the signs they said to look for. Today, in one form or another, you can find all of them. Here are just a few examples:
The Jewish People Back in the Land -
God promised to bring the Jewish people back into the land of Israel before He returned (Jeremiah 23:7-8). He said He would call them from "among the nations" (Ezekiel 39:28), from "the farthest corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12), and from "north, south, east, and west" (Psalm 107:3). He promised to welcome them home from the lands where they were scattered (Ezekiel 20:34). When they did, He promised to return and establish His everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 11:11-12). For 1,878 years (A.D. 70 to A.D. 1948), the Jewish people lived in exile. On May 14, 1948, they reestablished the nation of Israel, fulfilling God's promise to bring them back into the land.
The Jewish People Back in Jerusalem - Jesus prophesied armies would surround Jerusalem, destroy the city, and enslave its citizens. In A.D. 70, the Roman legions fulfilled this prophecy. In the days that followed, Jesus said Gentiles would control Jerusalem until "the times of the Gentiles are over." Then, the Jewish people would once again take control of Jerusalem. When they did, Jesus promised to return (Luke 21:24-28). In June 1967, the Jewish people retook control of Jerusalem.
The Gospel Preached Throughout the World - When the disciples asked about the end of the age and the signs of His coming, Jesus told them to look for a very specific sign. He said the Gospel will be preached throughout the entire world. Every nation will hear it. Then, the end will come (Matthew 24:14). For centuries after the crucifixion, the Gospel mostly reached a small area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. But in the past two centuries, Christians carried the Gospel to every country on earth. Today, missionaries live in every nation. The Bible is translated in hundreds of languages, and the message of Jesus is sent around the world by radio, TV, satellite, and the Internet. Our generation is the first one on the verge of spreading the Gospel to every last person on earth.
Increased Travel and Knowledge - Six hundred years before Jesus, an angel gave Daniel a special message. He said "travel and knowledge" will increase in the end times (Daniel 12:4). For centuries of human history, dramatic gains in travel and knowledge did NOT take place. Yet the last two hundred years have seen explosions in the speed and frequency of travel as well as the amount and availability of knowledge. For example, up until around two hundred years ago, a man could travel no faster than a horse could carry him. Today, we can travel faster than the speed of sound. Many consider the Library of Alexandria to be the greatest collection of written knowledge in the ancient world. While we don't know for sure how much knowledge was housed there, some estimates say it was as many 500,000 papyrus scrolls. Two thousand years ago, this was the height of human knowledge. Today, you probably have a bigger library in your pocket. Your smartphone can download almost any book that's ever been written in a matter of seconds. Our generation is experiencing an exponential increase in travel and knowledge.
Israel Surrounded by Enemies 17), and "Israel and Judah are ours. We will take possession of them. What do we care if their God is there?" (Ezekiel 35:10). Ever since the rebirth of Israel in 1948, the daily headlines have included these exact sentiments. Israel's Muslim neighbors claim the land of Israel for themselves, and they have no regard for the God of Israel.
Israel's Exceedingly Great Army - Ezekiel said, in the last days, Israel will field "an exceedingly great army" (Ezekiel 37:10). Zechariah said Israel will be like a fire among sheaves of grain, burning up the neighboring nations (Zechariah 12:6) and even the weakest Israeli soldier will be like David (Zechariah 12:8). Since 1948, Israel has fought no less than four conventional wars against its neighbors. Despite being outnumbered more than 50 to 1, Israel has achieved overwhelming victory every time.
Rise of the Gog of Magog Alliance - The Bible says a military alliance that includes Russia, Iran, Turkey, and a number of Muslim nations will attack Israel "in the latter days" (Ezekiel 38:8) when God brings His people home from among the enemy nations (Ezekiel 39:27). Today, we see those exact nations coming together. The alliance they form today is an alliance that has never existed in world history.
Rise of a United Europe - The Bible says a revived Roman Empire will come to power in the end times (Daniel 2, Daniel 7, Revelation 17). According to Daniel, it will be a ten nation alliance of weak and strong nations. Some parts will be as strong as iron, while other parts will be as weak as clay (Daniel 2:42). We see the initial stages of this alliance in the European Union - the legal and culture inheritor of the Roman Empire's legacy. The EU today is a coalition of both weak and strong nations. A volatile alliance, it struggles to stay together.
The Rise of Global Government - The Bible says a single government will rule the world politically (Revelation 13:7), religiously (Revelation 13:8), and economically (Revelation 13:16-17) in the last days. It will rule over "all people, tribes, and languages" on the face of the earth (Revelation 13:7). Its authority will be so complete no one will be able to buy or sell anything without its permission (Revelation 13:16-17). For centuries, a true global government was impossible. Today, world leaders openly discuss it, and the technology exists to implement and rule such a government.
Alone, each of these signs indicate the end times are near. Together, they prove ours is the end times generation. Jesus Himself said to look for these signs. He said when you see them, you can know His return is near (Matthew 24:33). In fact, He said the generation that sees these signs will not pass away before He returns (Matthew 24:34). This convergence of signs is the #1 reason to believe our generation is on the verge of witnessing the Second Coming. But instead of getting excited and ramping up our efforts to spread the Gospel, the Christian church is mostly silent on the issue. A large part of the church is complacent, and the Bible warned about this as well.
It's Time to Stay Awake
The night before the crucifixion, Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He went to be alone and pray. But before He did, Jesus asked the apostles to stay up and pray with Him. He warned them not to fall asleep. Nevertheless, they did. They were finally awakened when soldiers arrived to arrest Jesus.
In a similar way, Jesus warned us not to be caught sleeping when He returns (Mark 13:36). To illustrate, He told a story of ten bridesmaids. Of the ten bridesmaids, five were foolish and five were wise. The five foolish bridesmaids didn't take enough oil for their lamps when they went to wait for the bridegroom. When they left to buy more oil, the bridegroom came and they missed out on the marriage feast. Jesus warned us not to be like the foolish bridesmaids. He said, "You, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return" (Matthew 25:1-13).
In another parable, Jesus once again commanded us to watch: "You, too, must keep watch! For you don't know when the master of the household will return. It could be evening, midnight, dawn, or daybreak. Don't let the master find you sleeping when he arrives without warning" (Mark 13:35-37).
Personally, I've written about the nearness of the Second Coming for over 13 years. Obviously Jesus didn't return in those 13 years, but none of the reasons to expect His return have gone away. In fact, the opposite is true. The reasons to expect Jesus to return at any moment have markedly increased. Yet to great amazement, many Christians seem more complacent and ignorant of the signs than ever. Why? I don't know. But I'll continue to sound the alarm, and you should too. The Bible says if we recognize the signs and don't tell others about them, we're no different than a watchman who sees an invading army and doesn't sound the alarm. If we fail in our role as watchmen, God says He will hold us accountable for all those who perish (Ezekiel 33:1-6).
All the signs Jesus and the prophets said to look for are present right now. For almost 2,000 years, no Christian could say that. Our generation is an eyewitness to signs previous Christians could only dream about. If the signs are telling us the Tribulation and the Second Coming are near, then it means the rapture is even closer. Don't fall asleep, and don't let anyone around you fall asleep. It's never been more important to stay awake. Jesus is coming!