I’m a bit of a news junkie and particularly interested in reading about events, ideologies, political pronouncements, social issues, environmental changes, the mainstream ecclesiastical ‘mood’ revealed in religious writings, sermons, books and the like that show movements away from orthodoxy and Biblical theology. Summing up what I’m reading nearly every day it seems the vice-grip of sin and lawlessness around the neck of kosmos is getting tighter and the hammer of God (not Thor) is about to fall as history bends to His inexorable will fulfilling a plan conceived in eternity; I just keep getting more and more excited.
I don’t welcome disasters, famines, wholesale destruction, disease or war but they are here and increasing in number and severity; as one politician recently put it: “the whole world is upside down”. If this is obvious to those outside the faith, how much more should it be to us who await His appearing? Indeed, it’s happening, all those things the prophets spoke of millennia ago, the very words of Jesus unfolding before us written in newspapers and displayed through visual media.
Christians feel the pressure of this vice grip as well. It is not unreasonable to think we in this country might endure persecution, rejection, hatred, and ridicule especially since these things are already happening. The truth is seen as a lie, lies seen as truth; light is darkness and darkness, light, evil is good and good is evil and so it goes. It is remarkable that since we stand for light, truth and goodness, we are by the world as dark, as liars and as evil; all other world religions are given a pass but Christianity is now widely considered a threat to an ordered and civilized society.
In stark contrast to the foreboding and increasing disintegration preceding His appearance the Lord tells us to “rejoice” as we witness it all coming to pass. This, of course, will make those of the world around us even more disgusted and angry because our joy reflects a disregard for a world under the dominion of sin and death and an expectation of a new creation wherein the rule of God is finally and forever established.
Indeed, the time has come at last…now, today, this moment, in this generation. Therefore, the words of Jesus about the times we’re in are critical, especially His repeated exhortation to watch. For example, consider Matt. 24:42:
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
The verb ‘watch ’used here is in the present tense, imperative mood meaning a continuous watching with the command to do so now, this moment, no hesitation; i.e. DO IT NOW! The word γρηγορεῖτε itself means, among other things, to be alert, awake and alive.
This all might seem a bit passé since His people, us included, have been watching for over 2000 years. What is different in our time from past generations, however, is the globalization and causal interconnectedness between international governments, economies, and communication conditions absent to those who have gone before yet necessary to bring about the events foretold in the Bible.
Another difference is the increasingly global phenomenon of lawlessness and rebellion against all rule of law and authority. Again, this sort of thing has always been around here and there somewhere in the world, but never on this scale and with such severity. Jesus gives us a reference point namely “as it was in the days of Noah…”; the evil of which God described was ‘global’. Therefore, these ‘days’ we are in now are very much like, or perhaps identical to, what Noah faced and which brought about God’s judgment.
So, even though some of our Christian ancestors got their eschatological predictions wrong, they nevertheless were intently watching just as Jesus commanded. And now, given this global interconnectedness, the need for watchfulness in our generation is greater than ever before.
That this is the case is clear from Mark’s version of Matt. 24.
35 Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—36 lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” Mark 13:35-37 (NKJV)
Twice the word “watch” (γρηγορεῖτε) is used in these verses. Such an emphasis shows the high probability that many followers of the Lord will succumb to slumbering, overcome by some sort of worldly stupor, their spiritual senses dulled or much worse, like those Peter wrote about, scoffing and saying “where is His coming…?” Familiarity with the epistles of the New Testament supports this assertion with repeated warnings and exhortations to stay vigilant.
Jesus Himself announces this suddenness and unpredictability of His coming not only in the Gospels but also in the Revelation.
15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Revelation 16:15 (NKJV)
And similarly the glorified Lord speaks to a church that He pronounced as “dead”.
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. Revelation 3:1–3 (NKJV bold italics mine)
The particular meaning of “watch” as “being alive” (see above) directed to the “dead” congregation of Sardis is especially interesting here. That a church bearing the name of Christ should be in such a condition to be called ‘dead’ is sobering, indeed. The point is, becoming sleepy, complacent and careless is all too easy today and being watchful is difficult given the plenitude of distractions in the world. And by all indications, being watchful will become even more difficult as the vice grip tightens. It is certainly a time where none of us can “go it alone” nor a time where we tolerate church conduct or leadership that is anything but wholeheartedly committed to the ways of God. More to come next time.