People often ask me, as a pastor, what’s the one thing that influences the decisions I make with regard to the church. I’ll tell you right now, it’s my theology that determines my decisions, especially my theology on the last days.
The Word of God is very clear on what’s coming in the last days and, because I know what’s going to happen, it influences and has a bearing on every decision I make. I believe we’ve to have a crystal clear vision of what the future is going to be.
The apostle Paul preached that the Kingdom of God is entered into by many tribulations. Yes, salvation is a free gift. Yes, I’m saved by grace through faith. But tribulation is part and parcel of the Gospel and any pastor who neglects to warn his flock is negligent and not preparing them for what’s coming.
The word for ‘tribulation’ in Greek simply means ‘made narrow by pressure’. That’s how the word translates. It comes from the Latin word ‘tribulem’ used in Jesus’ day to describe a threshing sledge with spikes underneath which ran over the corn to separate the corn from the chaff.
Tribulation is when you feel everything is going over you and ripping you to bits. But, if you ever feel like giving up, just remember that the last thing to grow on a fruit tree is the fruit. The only way the enemy can win is if we give up. If you’ll keep on fighting, you’ll eventually get the victory.
The sermon that Jesus preached in Matthew 24 on the Mount of Olives is basically an exposé of what’s coming in the last days. Jesus is speaking as the Prophet of God and to a very select group of believers – Peter, James, John and Andrew. So this message is only for believers – specifically – to His disciples.
The sermon was precipitated by a question, in fact three questions:
When will these things happen?
What is the sign of Your coming?
What is the sign of the end of the age?
First of all, we must understand that there’s an end to our present age. There’s a terminus, a conclusion, a finality to this age that Paul describes as the present evil age.
Many of us live as though this present age will never come to an end. But our Lord forewarned us of the great distress that will plague all mankind in the last days. He called it ‘The Great Tribulation’. There’ll be wars, pestilences, famines, earthquakes; our planet will go through birth pains and travail. It’ll be a very difficult time on the earth and the very existence of human life will be threatened. But there’s more.
Two things that our Lord told us are going to characterise our day – first, Jesus said that lawlessness will abound. There’s going to be a complete meltdown and a moral decay of society and everything that’s good, and there’s nothing we can do to stop this slide of corruption in humanity. Jesus Himself said it’d happen and it will. Crime and violence will be rampant and we must prepare for it.
I’ve been asked often what my worldview of the last days is. I’m pessimistic and optimistic at the same time. I believe it’ll get much worse before it gets much better. We’ve chronic problems governments can no longer solve and two World Wars have proven that fact to us. Every time I speak on the last days, I’m branded as a doomsday preacher. I’m not. I’m just declaring to you, with a clear conscience, what’s going to unfold in our day.
Paul says in 1 Thess 5:3-4, “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour 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.” Don’t be like the world. They’ll keep on saying things like, “So when is this trouble coming?” But it is, and my job as a pastor is to warn my people. If you’re on the Titanic, you won’t want to spend all your money on redecorating the room.
Second, the Lord warned us that the love of many will grow cold. This is a direct result of this proliferation of lawlessness. Lawlessness always leads to compromise and the result of compromise is a loss of fire in our hearts. The word He uses for ‘love’ in this verse is the word ‘Agape’ and this is the kind of love found only in His children. The Lord is warning us that His love in many of His people will become cold. There’ll no longer be a deep white-hot love in our hearts for the Lord and for His people.
But the key verse is in verse 13: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” The Lord reinforces the need for endurance, because it’s only those who persevere, those who will endure to the end, who will be saved. So this whole business of the last days is vital to our survival and it requires careful attention and preparation. If you do not prepare yourself now, if you’re not building up your spiritual stamina and reserves now, believe me, when the pressures of the last days bear upon you, you won’t make it to the end. So as we enter into 2020, be prepared. Be ready. Be vigilant.
And above all, have a fervent love for the Lord Jesus Christ.