My Bible mediation earlier today was Matthew 24, and ties in with some thoughts going through my mind that I will get to. By way of confirmation I was onto something, a friend posted a blog article titled: “End of the Age” concerning that very scripture. In it he made some important points I want to return to: “Some Christians are obsessed with forthcoming events that have been prophesied to take place at the end of the age. Christ has told us to be vigilant and to be prepared for His second coming, but He has also given us other commands to be obeyed. We are to be loving (John 13:34), compassionate (1 Peter 3:8) and Christlike, but our great mission is to proclaim the gospel, i.e., to tell people of all nations to repent and to believe in Jesus (Mark 1:15)”.
Part of Matthew 24 (9-17) reads “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”, and seems particularly pertinent for today.
It is not my aim here to expound this chapter, but rather pick up on Jesus words about “many will turn away from the faith” and “many false prophets will appear”. I don’t do so wanting to criticise but rather to warn Christians of the need to stand firm in the faith and do what the Bible tells us to do, including relating this to my friend’s encouragement to obey, love, show compassion, be like Christ and proclaim the gospel. A couple of weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a former mentor I first knew as a young Christian, held at a well-known Baptist church in my town, who I am told has now become LGBT friendly to the extent it is reckoned ok to be gay etc. and to question this on Bible grounds is now frowned upon, which as a result some disgruntled attendees have decided to leave.
I met there another mentor of my youth, who happens these days to belong to another well-known Baptist church in my town. While our conversation was short, it became clear this elderly brother, who I recollect as being a formidable preacher and encourager in my youth, was not happy with the church, which as he saw it was bending over backwards to be inclusive and welcoming etc., yet in doing so neglecting essential Bible teaching, such as the very things the Holy Spirit has been sent into the world to convict it of: sin, righteousness and judgement. I can’t speak for my former mentors, of course, who I got to know over fifty years ago, anymore than I can for the churches they ended up belonging to. There have been changes big time and while inevitable may not all be desireable, although both then as well as now may not be all God intended.
I am loathe to criticise, especially what I don’t know, or other Christian groupings in a public forum and I recognise no church has managed to manifest the whole counsel of God in an entirely balanced way. After all, the matter of social justice and reaching out to the marginalised of society, which I suspect both these afore-mentioned churches may be strong on, is often something other churches that proclaim the certainties I mentioned earlier might have neglected. I also recognise in today’s post-Christian era the need to communicate the Christian message to today’s diverse society, who have limited Bible knowledge and who may feel excluded from the church, remains a challenge. However, it is never either / or and, while commendable to seek compassionate inclusion, reaching out to those who may not darken the doors of a church, there is no excuse for Christians neglecting or contradicting the timeless truths of the gospel (as so evidently happens) and those who hold to these truths to practice what they preach.
Following on, I like to change tack concerning something I think may relate. A little while back, I wrote “Approaching Bible End Times prophecy” not so much to give a view on this subject but rather to provide a framework to those who want to understand what may be involved. Something triggered me to return to this subject when in a discussion on the merits or otherwise of Britain leaving the EU last night, two minister friends offered strongly held alternative views. One saw a connection with this event and the end times, and that leaving was a good thing because it was against the globalism to be expected in the end times, along with a downward trend in society and eventual ascendency of a one world ruler – the AntiChrist. The other saw this as irrelevant; as the issue of trying to extend the Kingdom of God was paramount and with it a reverse in the downward trend, which likely the more inward looking nationalistic popularism of those who wanted to leave might negate.
I might be wrong, and I find sincere Christians represent a variety of views on all the issues mentioned so far, but it is not just a matter of evangelical against liberal, nationalist against globalist or pre-millennial against a-millennial. It is not necessarily about differences in approach or being adamant that our views are exclusively right. Rather, it is about earnestly contending for the faith in word and deed, doing what my blogger friend suggested in his Matthew 24 reflection: loving God and our neighbour and uncompromisingly preaching the gospel, doing what we do in a humble, faithful and kindly fashion. We live in disturbing and challenging times. We need to take to heart the warnings Jesus gave, recognising we do so in the service of the King of kings.
The Bible states there will be a widespread falling away in matters of faith, persecution of those who are of faith, and increased wickedness in these end times. It is well to note there will be false teachers / prophets who we need to be wary off. The corollary is also true – there are true teachers / prophets who we should honour, although ultimately we must follow the Lord and “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” 1Thessalonians 5:16-22.
If there is to be a conclusion, it is that we must stand firm in the faith and, however dire or confusing things are, God is in control, Jesus will return soon and just as He is faithful, so must we be.