by John Funk
2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. Matt 16:2-4 (NIV)
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. Matt. 24:3-8 (NIV)
In prophetic statements made to His disciples, Jesus described the spiritual condition of the current state of world affairs, both for the unbeliever and the Christian. It was evident to Jesus that certain observable conditions were a precursor to future world events. With these statements Jesus issued a warning: Be observant, be aware and interpret what is going on around you. Just like the events that transpired during the time of Christ, current world events portend what is to come.
As Americans, we view September 11, 2001 as a watershed event in our nation’s history. It is our generation’s equivalent of December 7, 1941. We now speak in terms of pre-9/11 and post-9/11. Immediately following that dark day, Americans flooded into churches seeking God’s grace and His wisdom; we dropped to our knees beseeching our Creator for direction. We experienced a national fervor not seen since World War II. We were more forgiving with our fellow Americans. Not long thereafter, it seems that we lost interest in God’s will and His provision.
We entered into a time of protracted warfare starting with the Taliban inAfghanistan and continuing into Iraq against Saddam Hussein who had tortured and murdered thousands upon thousands of his own countrymen. He had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and refused to permit United Nation’s weapons inspectors to enter into his country. We toppled his regime, killed his sons and took steps to establish democracy and a healthy socio-economic climate where previously there had been nothing but hopelessness and despair. And then it seems, many of us forgot what we had seen on the faces of those who had been liberated. Despite chilling pictures of atrocities including the beheading of innocents, cries arose demanding that we withdraw from the Middle East and bring our soldiers home. Allies that had stood by us in 1991 forsook us when thousands of innocent Americans died on their own soil. Viewed as an American problem, terrorism recently struck again and again in the United Kingdom claiming innocent lives.
In the summer of 2004 we saw four hurricanes strike the coast of Floridawreaking havoc on lives and the economy. Tsunamis struck southeast Asia without warning; the destruction was unprecedented, the toll upon life unimaginable. Recent earthquakes throughout the world have swarmed as the earth shudders and recoils. We responded with aid and support and then, we forgot.
Suicide bombings continue unabated while suffering from famine and disease increases on a global scale. Despite international aid that simply boggles the mind, Africa is mired in poverty and death. HIV runs rampant and other diseases previously unknown bring death without any hope of treatment. Diseases once thought eradicated once again threaten mankind. Money cannot cure the host of ills facing the world today.
Man’s pride, arrogance and self-will mock Almighty God. He refuses to humble himself before his Maker. He flaunts his freedom and denies responsibility. Man looks upon his scientific accomplishments and boasts. The old adage is true: history repeats itself. Just as before,
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” Gen 11:4 (NIV)
Man has the technology to feed nations yet children starve. We can process information at speeds that are virtually incalculable and yet, we remain ignorant. We travel to the stars in search of information but we will not cross the street to greet our neighbor. We strain to recreate life in a test tube through cloning but we murder the unborn. We spend millions on political campaigns but we won’t give a dime to charity. Discrimination is unlawful unless God is mentioned; then all is fair. The Ten Commandments cannot be displayed publicly but our Supreme Court strains at a gnat while swallowing a camel to keep its own display untouched. Prayer in school and even the mention of God is unlawful but our own Congress opens with words beseeching God’s grace.
The time is coming when God’s patience will be exhausted. Even Christ’s disciples recognized that time would eventually end and God’s righteous judgment would be unleashed. They addressed their questions to the Messiah and His response clearly indicated that a time was coming when His people would be removed from this earth. This is the only prophetic event left on God’s timeline that will take place before the advent of the Tribulation. The mere “snatching up” of God’s people will be the cataclysmic event that throws the world in chaos creating the opportunity for the predicted rise of the antichrist and his false prophet.
36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matt 24:36-44 (NIV)
Christ said, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” Clearly, without God’s wisdom, it is impossible to discern the times; however, as we look around, what storm clouds do we see? Are you prepared to greet Jesus Christ when He returns for his people or will you be left standing in a field alone?