There is apparent increase in the number and scale of various natural disasters, the rise, in recent decades, of world terrorism, and the economic turmoil which has been caused by the misjudgement and greed of a few men in strategic financial positions. All these things combined have generated a general fear in the world of approaching catastrophe, such as the scriptures confirm will occur at the end of this age. How near we are to this crisis we do not know, but, one suspects, not very far away lie the storm-clouds of impending divine judgement. God is certainly giving mankind many warnings to repent, or face the dire consequences of their continuing rebellion against Him.
Since the mid-twentieth century there have been various attempts to form an ecumenical religious movement embracing all the major world religions, regardless of doctrinal differences, and certainly regardless of the true teaching of the scriptures. These appear to be precursors of that false bride of Christ described in Revelation chapter 17 as ‘Mystery, Babylon the Great’, which the Beast will use for his own ends before destroying it. Such false religion, stemming from ancient Babylon, has always been the implacable enemy of true believers down the ages, and has persecuted and killed many of them. Certainly, believers in many parts of the world are still suffering for their simple faith in Christ, and this will come to a head after the one true Bride of Christ, the church consisting of saints from Pentecost to the rapture, has been taken to heaven. Tribulation saints will suffer terribly at the hands of the false church and the Beast. Judging by vigorous contemporary efforts to achieve religious unity at any price, this time may not be far away.
In Luke chapter 21 verses 28 to 32, the Lord Jesus gave to His disciples the sign of ‘the fig tree, and all the trees’ budding. This would be one of many signs of the approach of His Second Coming to the earth in glory. The fig tree in scripture is a symbol for Israel as a nation. This verse, therefore, is usually taken to refer to the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in their land in 1948. That event is a sign of the approach of the end-times. But the addition in Luke of the phrase ‘and all the trees’, meaning all other nations as well, refers to the accompanying tide of nationalism in the world generally during the same period of history. And this has been our experience since 1945. Since then, most of the former colonial powers have granted independence to their colonies, from India in 1947 onwards to the present day. ‘Summer is now nigh at hand’, that is, ‘the kingdom of God’, the millennial reign of Christ. How much nearer, therefore, must be our Lord’s coming to the air for His own blood-bought church at the preceding rapture!
Ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution about two hundred years ago, mankind has developed a highly sophisticated civilisation which is openly independent of God and very similar to that which early man developed in the days of Noah before God’s judgement fell upon them in the worldwide flood. This, too, the Lord Jesus predicted as a sign of the approach of the judgements of the end-times and His coming in glory to reign. Mankind is still largely heedless of God’s claims upon them, and engaged in many self-centred activities. Moral conditions have fallen to a low level, and the governments of the world have difficulty in restraining the rise of lawlessness. The ‘days of Lot’, when people broke the laws of marriage, are upon us today, as the Lord predicted would be the case before His coming. Our contemporary world is certainly ripe for God’s judgements as foretold in the book of Revelation!
During the past century, and especially since the end of the Second World War in 1945, there has been a population explosion, notably in the Eastern nations. Genesis chapter 6 seems to indicate that there was a similar population explosion before the Flood judgement fell upon the world of that time. Again, therefore, present world conditions seem to parallel those of the days of Noah, and to portend imminent divine judgement.
We should also consider the increasing momentum of the modern missionary movement (ever since about AD 1800) into all the remaining parts of the world which have never yet been evangelised. This has more recently been facilitated by vastly-improved methods of communication, such as, radio, television, the internet, and sophisticated means of translating the scriptures into vernacular languages.
Reports by the Lord’s servants in many developing countries, where the population explosion has been most marked, suggest that many are turning to Christ for salvation, so that it may be true to say that there are more Christians alive today than have ever lived up until now during the church age. Therefore, the rapture of the living church could be a greater event than we have supposed!
While the coming of the Lord does not depend in any way upon the church’s obedience to her great commission to evangelize the whole world, and since the Lord Jesus said that the moment when His Father will decide to send Him back to this world to reign is known only to His Father, it is probably significant that in our day the gospel is being both preached and accepted more universally than ever before. God is calling men to repentance more urgently as His judgement approaches.
The other significant positive factor today is the undoubted growth in believers’ understanding of the prophetic scriptures. Since the 1820s there have been more students of prophecy than ever before, and a gradual, but definite, clarification of the meaning of Bible passages relating to the rapture of the church and subsequent end-time events. We know from Daniel chapter 12 verse 4 that there will be a more diligent search and understanding of prophetic scriptures during the Tribulation days by saints who live then, but perhaps we should also have expected that during the final part of the church age there would be a similar revived interest in prophetic truth. Until AD 1800 church saints majored on various aspects of doctrine, such as the Person of Christ, and the doctrine of salvation, during the Reformation period. But now, towards the end of the age, the focus has fallen more on church truth and future events as prophesied in scripture. Certainly, before AD 1800 few believers understood the true doctrine of the imminence of the rapture of the church and the meaning of the book of Revelation. In that respect, there has been a gradual increase in the light given to believers during the church age, whilst the unbelieving majority of mankind have remained in ever-increasing spiritual darkness.
All these trends and events have occurred since about AD 1800, but there has been a marked acceleration of them during the past century, and especially since the end of the Second World War in 1945, that is, during our own lifetimes. They could easily come to a head in the prophesied end-time events in the near future. Although it is true that the rapture of the church need not be preceded by any prophetic signs, nevertheless, since it will probably occur shortly before the commencement of the Great Tribulation judgements, we should not be surprised that we are seeing clear indications of the approach of these latter events in the closing days of the church age. The storm-clouds of imminent divine judgement are surely gathering quite quickly around us today. Since we are not appointed to wrath, but to obtain salvation from it, according to 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 9, and this certainly includes the horrors of the Tribulation period, let us lift up our hearts and our heads in eager expectation of the imminent return of our blessed Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Maranatha! The Lord is probably coming for us quite soon!
Whether, therefore, we are currently facing a very traumatic personal future, or a very uncertain one, or perhaps one full of interest and exciting hopes, the scriptures contain invaluable instruction for us which will enable us to face that future with calm confidence in God our Saviour. Most of all, however, the Bible tells us much about what is undoubtedly the most important future event for us as Christian believers, namely, the rapture of the church at the Second Coming of Christ to the air for ‘His own’. For this event, above all others, should fill us with the joyful expectation of seeing our Lord and Saviour for the very first time in redeemed bodies and heavenly glory. Yes, the Christian’s ultimate future and surest hope is to meet Christ Himself! So, are we fully prepared to do this? By God’s grace, we can be, if we heed the teaching of the scriptures which have been referred to in this series of articles.