"Encourage One Another with These Words"
Dr. Valson Abraham
There is no doubt about it. We live in troubled times, and they seem to be getting more troubled.
In Kerala, we know this by experience as we recover from the worst floods in recorded history. But even these floods, as destructive, terrible and grievous as they are, pale in comparison to the wicked hearts of people. For the most part, it is we, not the turbulences of nature, who bring the most suffering upon ourselves and upon others.
The Bible tells us that one day, mankind’s troubled rule will end, and Jesus Christ will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Prince of Peace.
In one sense, those “last days” are already here. The “last days” began when Jesus Christ destroyed the works of the devil on the cross and ushered in His new kingdom. The writer of Hebrews says that “in these last days, He [God] has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2). This signifies something that has already happened. It is unprecedented in human history.
In short, God is already at work in human history to accomplish His purposes, to ultimately redeem men, women and children through Jesus Christ and the entire world from sin, decay and death. He has already transferred those who trust in Him from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. He has already given to His children His Holy Spirit to begin the work of rebuilding and restoration.
For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, we can already see His kingdom expanding throughout the world, under the radar of the world’s so-called “wise men” and “experts,’ but in very real and remarkable ways. Many books and articles have already been written on these amazing things, and sadly, we do not have time or space to speak more of them.
But “last days” also signifies the ultimate fulfillment of what God has already begun, the completion of what He planned before creation. God intervened in human history once in Jesus’ incarnation which led to Jesus’ death and resurrection. He will do it again in Jesus’ Second Coming (1 Corinthians 15). Jesus Second Coming will bring about wrath and judgment for some, but blessing for others and with full restoration of all things.
The world scoffs at this in unbelief - and perhaps fear - because this will mean the end of everything they have lived, worked and died for. These perishable things for which they have given their very lives have nothing to do with God’s imperishable purposes and will be brought to nothing.
But believers in Jesus Christ need not fear. Indeed, Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 that we should encourage each other with these things. Peter says we should pray for a speedy coming of the “last days” (2 Peter 3:12) because it will begin the very thing for which God created and redeemed us-“new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” We will speak more of these things at a later time.
In short, heaven will come to earth. What God began “under the radar” will become visible for all to see. The small mustard seed will become a great tree. The desert will become a flowering garden. Some will shout in joy and gladness at this, while others will weep and mourn and even call on the hills and mountains to bury them alive (Revelation 6:16).
How will we know we have entered the “last days?”
Jesus tells us that no man can know the day or the hour when He will return and when God’s rule will be fully revealed (Matthew 25:13), but he encourages us to watch for the signs we have entered the season of His Second Coming.
I suggest to you that we have entered that season.
In Matthew 24, Jesus gives us a list of events to look for that will precede the “last days”. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul details the spirit of the age that marks the “last days.” Both Jesus and Paul foresee a time of great evil that will precede the full revelation of God’s kingdom on earth. These signs were already evident in the first century, but they are getting worse in our own day.
These terrible things happen, not from the hand of God, but are the work of the great adversary, Satan, and his spiritual allies (Ephesians 6:10-13), who dread Jesus Christ’s coming and their final and total defeat. Desperately and furiously, they try in vain, to stop the inevitable by stirring up turmoil and confusion in the world, especially to distract, discourage and dismay the people of God.
I believe there are at least four specific signs of His future coming prophesied in the Bible 2,000-2,700 years ago that are taking place only in our generation and at no other time in history. To me, these things are signs that His coming is very near. I mention them briefly:
1. Return of Israel to the Promised Land. Many Old Testament passages (such as Ezekiel 37) prophesy a coming exile of God’s chosen people, Israel, for idolatry. God would scatter them over the face of the earth. The people of Israel would suffer great humiliation and persecution. That exile would end with the re-gathering of Israel, back to the land of the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants. To an astonished world, the nation of Israel was re-established as a nation in 1948, just as the Bible prophesied, more than 2,500 years after the exile, and just after the Holocaust that slaughtered millions of Abraham’s descendants.
2. The coalition of nations. Not everyone has welcomed Israel’s rebirth. We see this in the hatred of Israel especially by Muslim nations surrounding Israel. We should not be surprised. This was foreseen in Ezekiel 38-39. A great coalition of nations would one day attack Israel to destroy Israel for good. The ancient names of those nations include Iran, Russia and Turkey, as well as many Muslim nations that surround Israel today. Rapidly, the stage is being set for that showdown prophesied by Ezekiel more than 2,500 years ago. Again, this situation did not exist until our present generation.
3. Travel and knowledge increased. Daniel 12:4 prophesies that the last days will be marked by an astronomical increase in knowledge and travel. How can we doubt this now? In the past century, and in our own lifetimes, we have seen this take place in ways never imagined even ten years ago. Today’s high tech age never existed remotely in any generation before our own.
4. Preaching the gospel to all peoples. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus told His disciples, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all peoples, and then the end will come.” When Jesus spoke these words, large portions of the world still remained undiscovered. Today, we see a growing vision to reach the remaining peoples of the world who do not yet have the gospel, not just by western nations, but even by nations like India that were recently regarded as “closed” to the gospel. For the first time ever, we have the sophisticated technology to fulfill the Great Commission in this generation.
The fulfillment of this last sign-the completion of the Great Commission-triggers the “last days” of Satan’s dominion (see Matthew 24:14). This is what frightens Satan the most and why he strikes out at the church through his human puppets, bringing persecution and suffering to God’s people. At no other time in history have God’s people experienced such slander and persecution as today.
This is precisely why we must not become discouraged. It is all a big deception of the enemy. This is why we should pray for God’s intervention in the church with a great revival and spirit of repentance that brings a Great Awakening and proclamation of the gospel to all of India and every part of the unreached world.
So let us pray and commit ourselves to the work God has given us, and let us “encourage each other with these words.”
* * *
Father God, I thank you that our troubled world is not the final word, and that from the beginning you have had a plan to redeem the world through your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me to live my life in the light of these glorious truths, to encourage others with this Good News, and to do my part in fulfilling your Great Commission so that these “last days” will bring your glorious return. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.