Saturday, July 2, 2022

How We Know The Lord's Coming Is Near

  by James C. Morris – 

There has been much discussion about whether or not we can actually know that the Lord’s coming for us is near. We have all heard many Christians saying the time is near. But how do we know that? Is it really possible to know such a thing?

To answer this question, we need to begin with two scriptures that explicitly tell us that we should be able to know when the time is near. The first of these is: “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4) Here we find a coming day mentioned, which is called “the day of the Lord.” and we are explicitly told that it “comes as a thief in the night.” The Holy Spirit then goes on to explain that by this He means that it will catch the careless by surprise. He will just suddenly be there, without any warning that they will be aware of. But then the Holy Spirit very explicitly says, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” Here we see, and clearly see, that if we understand the scriptures as well as our God expects us to, “you, brethren” will see “this Day” approaching, even though it catches “them,” that is, the unbelievers, by surprise.

The second place where we clearly see this is the passage, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Like the first scripture we examined, this one explicitly says that we would be able to “see the Day approaching.” Again, this is assuming that we have made ourselves as acquainted with the Holy Scriptures as our God intended we should be. For we are also told that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) So if we do not personally know what the Bible actually teaches, we are spiritually incomplete, and we are not “thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

But when we bring these scriptures up, someone often brings up two others. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Matthew 25:13) And “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32) And it is indeed absolutely correct that we cannot know “the day nor the hour” when our Lord will come. But this is a specific time. The other scriptures we examined speak of a general time, not a specific one. So there is zero contradiction between these scriptures. We indeed cannot know “the day nor the hour.” But, if we know the scriptures as well as our God expects to know them, we will indeed be able to “see the Day approaching.” And we will not be “in darkness, so that this Day should overtake” us “as a thief.”

But what are the specific scriptures that make it plain that our Lord’s coming for us is very near? We are told absolutely nothing that must take place before that time. Instead, we are told that “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) This coming of the Lord for His own has come to be called “the rapture,” and is distinctly different from His coming to judge the world. And it also is the first of a long chain of events that the Bible tells us will take place.

The Bible repeatedly calls the period in which these things will happen, “the time of the end.” (Daniel 8:17, 11:35 and 40, 12:4 and 9) And it says many things by which we can understand when it is getting near. Some of these things are stated in broad generalities. But many other things are stated in language that is very detailed and specific. To understand what the Bible teaches on this subject, we need to examine both of these classes of prophecies. We will begin by reviewing a few prophecies that are stated in broad generalities.

In Luke 17, Jesus “was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come.” (Luke 17:20) as part of His answer, Jesus said, “as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:26-30)

Several things shine out brightly from this description. The first is, that His coming will be sudden, without any warning that the unbelievers would understand. But then two other things jump out at us. At that time, it will be “as it was in the days of Noah,” and “as it was also in the days of Lot.”

What was it like “in the days of Noah,” and “in the days of Lot”? We read in Genesis 6:10-11, “Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” So this comparison tells us that at that time the earth will be filled with corruption and violence. Then, we also read that “Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” (Genesis 13:12-13) And a few chapters later we are explicitly told the nature of their wickedness, for “before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.’ ” (Genesis 19:4-5) So, although they were “exceedingly wicked and sinful,” the specific nature of their wickedness was homosexuality.

Now who could deny that at the present time the earth is filled with corruption, violence, and wickedness. And sadly, we all know that homosexuality is now rampant on a worldwide scale. Now some would argue that these things have always been in the world. But those of us who are as old as myself all remember that, throughout most of history, up to the time of our own youth, such behavior was considered socially unacceptable. But in the mid 1960s, there came a sudden and dramatic change. Now, “they declare their sin as Sodom, They do not hide it.” (Isaiah 3:9) And everyone knows that violence is increasing dramatically all over the world. So these things, though general in nature, are distinct signs that the Lord’s coming is near.

Again, in Matthew 24:3-4, Jesus’ “disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them:” (Matthew 24:3-4) His answer then included the following: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:7-8) So the beginning of this time of sorrow will be a time of many wars, along with “famines, pestilences, [that is, epidemics] and earthquakes.” Again, one would have to be blind and deaf to not realize that all these things have become commonplace in recent decades. Yet all of us that are older remember that it was different in our youth. But these things are still general.

But now we come to one more prophecy that, while general in scope, is specific in detail, bridging, as it were, the division between general and specific prophecies. At the end of his prophecy, Daniel was told, “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.” (Daniel 12:4) Here we are told two very specific details about the end times. The first is that “many shall run to and fro.” The Hebrew word here translated “run” is an enhanced form of שוּט, shut in our alphabet, word number 7751 in Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary. This enhanced form implies great speed. Remember that it was only about a generation ago when “a mile a minute” was an expression for the ultimate in speed. Yet today, ordinary people that is, the common people, or the “many,” travel on jet planes, which go on the order of eight to nine miles a minute. And even when only traveling in cars, most people consider “a mile a minute,” that is, sixty miles an hour, as going rather slow. So who could deny that this is something that is uniquely different about our current generation.

Again, when my parents were young, the standard method of travel was to either ride on or be pulled by beasts, usually horses or oxen. So there was not very much travel. Some people indeed traveled far. But this was rare. But today even common people travel far and wide on a regular basis.

The second specific detail of the end times in this last passage is that “knowledge shall increase.” And indeed, the sum total of all human knowledge, that is, the sum total of “facts” that are recorded and available for reference, is currently doubling every ten years or so. And half of all the true scientists that have ever lived are working today. So today, knowledge is increasing at a startling rate. So these two details again show, and very clearly show, that we are indeed near “the time of the end.”

And in recent decades there has been a marked resurgence of openly practiced witchcraft. This has always been practiced in secret, but of late it has become open and flagrant on a very wide scale. This is explicitly mentioned in Bible prophecy, calling it “sorceries” in Isaiah 47:9 and 12, in Micah 5:12, in Nahum 3:4, and in Revelation 9:21, and “sorcery” in Revelation 18:23.

This covers the general descriptions of the end times. And these alone should be enough to make anyone realize that we are indeed near the end. But beyond these general things, the scriptures state a very large number of highly specific details of the world geopolitical situation that will exist in “the time of the end.” Even as late as the early 1940s, none of these world geopolitical situations existed. But all of them exist today. These specific and explicit things include:

Until our generation a war that would literally kill everyone, and everything, was unthinkable. But today it is common knowledge that an all out nuclear exchange would eradicate life on this planet. There can be no reasonable doubt that our Lord was referring to this threat when, in speaking about the time we call “the tribulation,” He said that “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved.” (Matthew 24:22) But He also added the words “but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.” We can therefore safely conclude that the threat of nuclear annihilation is real. In fact, it would definitely happen if our Lord did not step in. But He has promised to step in before it goes that far. The all out nuclear exchange that would end all life on this planet will not take place. But this does not mean there will not be a limited nuclear exchange.

The Jews are again in their ancient homeland, with their own rulers. This was not distinctly prophesied anywhere in the Bible. The return described in the Bible is a return of all Israel, which has not yet happened. But, although this return was not distinctly prophesied, the end time scenario in the Bible opens with Judah, that is, the Jews, in their land.

First, we need to realize that the often discussed seventieth “week” of Daniel’s famous prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” (Daniel 9:24-27) is merely the unfulfilled last “week” of these “seventy weeks.” And we are explicitly told that these “seventy weeks” were “determined for” Daniel’s “people,” who are the Jews, and his “holy city,” which is Jerusalem. (Daniel 9:24) So, in order for this prophecy to be fulfilled, it was absolutely necessary for the Jews to be in Jerusalem.

Jesus spoke of them being in that land at that time saying, “When you see the ‘abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.” (Matthew 24:15-18)

Again, we read of them being in Jerusalem in Isaiah 28:14-18, where we read, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men, Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem, Because you have said, ‘We have made a covenant with death, And with Sheol we are in agreement. When the overflowing scourge passes through, It will not come to us, For we have made lies our refuge, And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.' Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:... ‘Your covenant with death will be annulled, And your agreement with Sheol will not stand; When the overflowing scourge passes through, Then you will be trampled down by it.’ ”

Again, we read of that day, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.” (Zechariah 12:2-3) It would obviously be impossible to “lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem” unless Judah, that is, the Jewish nation, was in Jerusalem.

These, and other scriptures, made it very plain that Judah, that is, the Jews, would be in the land in the end times. As all Jews had been expelled from the land by a decree of the Roman Emperor Hadrian sometime around A.D. 130, and had never returned in any significant numbers, these prophecies could not be fulfilled until they had returned to the land and to the city. Because of this, students of Bible prophecy have always known that the Jews would return to their ancient homeland. This was explicitly stated in a “Commentary on Daniel” written by Hippolytus, which is thought to have been published between the years 202 and 211 A.D. This is the very oldest Christian commentary on scripture that has survived to the present day. (See “Ancient Dispensational Truth,” by James C. Morris, pp 51-52.) This was also explicitly taught in the early 1700s by William Lowth, in the most widely circulated series of Bible commentaries of the 1700s. (See pp. 126-129 of the same volume.)

Simultaneous attacks from Egypt and Assyria are mentioned in Isaiah 7 and Daniel 11. Ancient Assyria was the northern half of present day Iraq, And present day Mosul, the center of Islamic extremism in that area, and the home of the world’s largest surviving community of “Assyrians,” is at the site of ancient Nineveh, the ancient capitol of Assyria. And the book of Nahum says that the “king of Assyria” (Nahum 3:18) will rise out of “Nineveh.” (Nahum 1:1 and 11)

And Ezekiel 38 and 39 detail a great end time attack on Israel, led by Russia, and joined by many other nations, including Persia, (which is now called Iran) Ethiopia, and Libya. And all know the interest Russia has been showing in this region for the last 50 or so years.

Again, the nations surrounding Israel are filled with murderous hatred against the Jews, even to the point of desiring to annihilate them. This was explicitly stated in many end time prophecies of the Bible. One of the places where these nations are explicitly named in Psalm 83, where we read:

They have taken crafty counsel against Your people,

And consulted together against Your sheltered ones.

They have said, ‘Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation,

That the name of Israel may be remembered no more.’

For they have consulted together with one consent;

They form a confederacy against You:

The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites;

Moab and the Hagrites;

Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek;

Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre;

Assyria also has joined with them;

They have helped the children of Lot.” (Psalm 83:3-8)

It is well known that ancient “Edom” occupied the southern part of modern Jordan and the northeastern part of modern Saudi Arabia, and that “the Ishmaelites” occupied other parts of modern Saudi Arabia. And it is thought that “Amalek” and “the children of Lot” also lived in the northern parts of modern Saudi Arabia. It is also well known that ancient “Moab” lived in the central part of modern Jordan, and that the ancient nation of “Ammon” lived in the northern part of modern Jordan. Today’s Palestinians proudly declare themselves to be ancient “Philistia. And, of course, it is well known that ancient “Assyria” was the northern part of today’s Iraq. “Tyre,” being a city, is still exactly where it has always been. And this leaves only “the Hagarites” and “Gebal” whose modern identities are unknown today. These are the nations from which attacks against modern Israel are being continually launched. And of course, even though the governments of some of these nations are officially at peace with Israel, their people are not.

Again, most of us remember that we are plainly taught that ten nations will unite to re-establish the Roman Empire. And we all know that today there is a movement toward a united Europe. (The European Common Market is not the union described in Bible prophecy, but is a move in that direction.)

And in Revelation 9 we are told of an army of two hundred million men that comes from beyond the Euphrates river. And Red China has boasted that it can field this number of men at any time.

When we realize that all of these prophetic details either have come to pass or have become immediate possibilities within the lifetimes of the older people among us, we realize that “the time of the end” is indeed beginning to come to pass, and thus that the Lord's coming is indeed very near.

How this should affect the hearts and minds of “all who have loved His appearing.” (1 Timothy 4:8) For “we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3) And “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

No comments:

Post a Comment