Years ago, a man came to Skip claiming to be the Messiah. When asked what evidence he could give to support his claim, he replied that his proof was the "third testament"---which, by the way, he had written.
At this point, Skip was pretty sure this guy was off his medications, so he kindly asked, "What can I do for you?" Without missing a beat, the man said that in order to secure the future, the church needed to donate a million dollars to him so he could carpet his planet. Wow!
Obviously, this was a time when it was pretty easy to spot a false prophet. But there have been many times when well-respected sources have totally missed the mark when making claims about the future. In 1962, Brian Epstein approached Decca Records to sign an up-and-coming new group called The Beatles. The manager of the recording company replied, "Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein." Wrong. Then there was the teacher who told the concerned father of a wayward student, "It doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything." The student? Albert Einstein.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
People have always been curious about the future. Jesus knew Satan would exploit that curiosity to try to lead us astray. Therefore, Jesus gave us indicators to help us discern the false and dangerous from the true and certain. Jesus told us to watch for the following signs:
- false prophets
- wars and rumors of wars
- increased natural disasters
- signs in the heavens
And He said, "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them (Luke 21:8).
Although we may not remember the names Marshall Applewhite or Bonnie Nettles, we certainly remember the Heaven's Gate mass suicide in 1997. These two individuals convinced 39 people that an alien spaceship was following the Hale-Bopp comet. To reach the safety of the spaceship, they were instructed to kill themselves. Their gruesome remains were later discovered in a mansion near San Diego. Sadly, this group of people listened to false prophets---and paid with their lives.
Wars and Rumors of Wars
War is a fact of life. Any given day, soldiers are engaged in battle in 30 to 40 nations across the world. Although we see an obvious increase in wars, Jesus gave us a necessary perspective:
But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately (Luke 21:9).
If wars alone were the predictor of the end of the age, we would already be long gone. Like labor pains, the contractions of wars around the world will increase in intensity and frequency as the end times draw nearer.
Will mankind ever "give peace a chance," as John Lennon implored? Richard Staar, the director of the Hoover Institution of War, Revolution, and Peace doesn't think so. He anticipates an increase in regional conflicts confirming the words of Jesus: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (Luke 21:10). And this is only one of the signs of the end times.
In April of this year, Iceland's volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, erupted. Thousands of European flights were canceled due to the resulting giant cloud of ash. For five days air traffic came to a virtual halt in northern European countries.
And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven (Luke 21:11).
We don't even have to look outside our own country to find evidence of this. Consider Hurricane Katrina. This Atlantic storm was the most costly American disaster to date. Katrina roared into the coast of Louisiana with 125 mph winds, breaking levees and leaving 80% of the city under water. Over 1,800 were killed and damages were estimated at 125 billion dollars.
Signs in the Heavens
As another sign of the end of the age, Jesus told His disciples to look for celestial indicators:
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars (Luke 21:25).
Man has always looked to the heavens with wonder and awe. This past August, the earth-side of the sun erupted in a blaze of activity know as the "coronal mass ejection" or a solar flare. The super-heated gas coming off the star hurtled through space. It was so large it was visible on earth without the aid of a solar telescope.
The Apostle Peter made reference to future celestial disturbances unlike any we have ever seen:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).
So how should we live our lives in view of a future filled with steadily greater challenges? How can we avoid becoming depressed, terrified, or dulled into complacency?
COME TO YOUR FIVE SENSES
Keep an Eye on the Future
After a long winter, we look for signs of spring. It might be a yellow crocus pushing through the snow or the early blooming of the forsythia. We are to be aware and observant. Jesus said:
Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near (Luke 21:29-31).
We must keep our eyes always open---looking for signs of the coming of God's kingdom.
Keep a Light Touch On The World
Perspective is everything. Our world is temporary, but God's Word is eternal. Keeping this in mind, we are likely to make wiser decisions about where and how we invest our energies.
But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly (Luke 21:34).
Keep a light touch on this world and keep eternity firmly in your heart.
Remember the Sweet Aroma of Prayer
Have you ever been driving somewhere and become so lost in thought that you went right by your destination? It's easy to become distracted by the enticements and cares of this world.
Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36).
Jesus reminded us that to be counted worthy, we should pray---a lot. God so loves our prayers He regards them as a sweet aroma:
And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand (Revelation 8:4).
Watch what is happening around you and pray so that you can maintain a Godward focus.
Develop An Ear For The Truth
There will always be people who ridicule the Word of God and cast doubt on its truthfulness:
Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation' (2 Peter 3:3-4).
Just because something hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't happen. Remember the iconic scoffer, Harry Truman, who in 1980 refused to leave his home on Mount St. Helens in spite of the increasing rumblings of the volcano? The eruption came and Harry Truman was never seen again. Neighbors later said that Truman thought he would be able to see the lava coming down the mountain and still have time to get to safety. Unfortunately for him, the blast came at 300 miles per hour.
Listening to God's Word and taking heed of the signs result in wise actions.
Taste and See That God is Good
When we look to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith, we have reason to lift our heads in confidence and anticipation.
Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near (Luke 21:28).
For the godly there is genuine hope even in the midst of a world convulsing in chaos. Our heavenly Father is a good God with good things planned for His children. Until we are with Him in paradise, He wants us to seek Him diligently, know Him deeply, and trust Him completely.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trust in Him! (Psalm 34:8).
I confess that when I'm reading a novel, I sometimes flip to the back of the book to see how it ends. Billy Graham apparently did the same thing. He said, "I've read the last page of the Bible. It's all going to turn out all right."
As forward-thinking believers, we can face tough times with confidence: knowing the work Jesus did on the cross means a happy ending for His children. He has promised "I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:3). Good to know, isn't it?
USE YOUR SENSES
- Look for the coming kingdom
- Keep your heart light
- Watch and pray
- Know your Master's voice
- Remember God is good
Lenya Heitzig is an award-winning author, popular Bible teacher, and a sought after speaker at women’s conferences and retreats worldwide. She is the author of Holy Moments: Recognizing God’s Fingerprints on Your Life and also contributed to the best-selling New Women’s Devotional Bible. Lenya has co-authored seven Fresh Life Bible studies and is the sole author of two studies in the Fresh Life series: Live Reflectively and Live Tastefully. She and her husband, Skip, founded Calvary of Albuquerque where Lenya has served as Director of she Ministries since 1984, overseeing weekly Bible studies and yearly retreats.