Understanding the Times
by Bobby Duncan
W

HAT’S HAPPENING to our once God-fearing America? How can a relatively young nation such as ours—one built on the Judeo-Christian ethic, and once touted as a “shining city on a hill”— take such a rapid nose-dive into spiritual darkness and moral depravity? How is it that we have given up the high ground on the world stage and have plunged into political chaos and economic uncertainty? Furthermore, how is it that an always-violent world seems to be reaching new levels of violence, often fueled by the perverted ideologies of religious extremists?

Although these questions trouble us deeply, they are not questions without answers. However, if we are not careful, our human sensibilities override our faith, and panic sets in. Jesus warns of this condition in Luke 21:25-26: “There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth” (NKJV).

When Jesus delivered His discourse on the end times only days before His crucifixion, He informed His disciples that the intensifying deception, wars, natural disasters, persecutions, and family dysfunctions of the last days would only be “the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:8). These distresses, He added, would usher in a period of “great tribulation” unlike anything happening before it or anything following it (v. 21). Really? Is that possible?

Escalating Evil

Our world has been a vicious and violent place ever since Cain rose up against his brother Abel and coldheartedly murdered him—the direct result of disobedience to God. At that moment, the human race began a visible downward spiral that has continued for 6,000 years. Paul noted this wicked progression by saying evil men would only grow more evil (2 Tim. 3:13). As emphatic as his statement is, we still cannot conceive the full weight of its meaning, or of Christ’s meaning when He spoke of great tribulation.

How could a nation be more violent than the brutal Assyrian Empire, or fiercer than the Nazi regime that orchestrated the extermination of millions of Jews and other “undesirables”? How could there be a future day that would see more ferocity than that perpetrated by the Communists under Stalin, Lenin, and Mao Zedong, or that could conceivably be more atrocious than the Khmer Rouge’s Pol Pot, who was responsible for nearly a million of his own people being massacred in the infamous killing fields of Cambodia? Do the words of Jesus really mean there will come a time that literally will surpass the evil and violence of these governments?

Yes. Just ahead, there awaits the prophetical rendezvous with unprecedented disaster. However, this trouble and distress will not descend on the earth overnight; the escalation of evil in our world occurs gradually. We are witnessing humanity march toward a kind of destruction unparalleled in history.

As deeply disturbing as today’s unprovoked slaughter of innocents by Muslim extremists, as troubling as the wanton beheading of Western journalists, and as alarming as the planned destruction of America and Israel are, these are but precursors of what is to come. Radical Islamist terrorists with their grossly distorted theology will continue to smite fear into the hearts of people and nations around the world by perpetrating unimaginable violence against anyone who opposes their twisted view of God and the hereafter.

Increasing Immorality

Juxtaposed with the increasing savagery of man is the prophesied breakdown of a moral code of conduct. Just as the Bible predicts the growing violence in the world, it also predicts the dramatic decline in morality. Wasn’t this the condition existing in the days of Noah and in the last days of Sodom and Gomorrah? And did not Christ liken the time of His return to these evil populaces (Luke 17:26-30)?

As a nation, we have moved from supporting traditional (biblical) marriage and family to an all-out embracing of same-sex “marriage”—to the point that our culture now identifies anyone who opposes such a relationship as intolerant and on the wrong side of history. We have become a people with undisciplined minds and unbridled passions. Just as sexual immorality played a leading role in the collapse of kingdoms throughout history, so today the sexualizing of our own culture portends the end of America as we have known it.

Clear Reasons

Again, why are terrorism, religious extremism, and moral corruption increasing so exponentially? The answers are not complicated. First, the departure from the faith gives rise to these corrupting influences. Second, God allows and uses these events and conditions to call His people to repentance. Third, these maladies fulfill biblical prophecy and prepare for earth’s final conflicts that, ultimately, will usher in the Millennium.

Although we can draw close to God, touch lives, and do the work of His kingdom, we cannot change the course of this age. Jesus makes it clear that “all these things must come to pass” (Matt. 24:6).

As believers trying to negotiate these troubled waters today, we must find the common ground of truth and stand firmly thereon. Granted, in the midst of increasing hostility among nations, cultures, families, and people in general—and among decreasing morality before God—it sometimes seems we are fighting a losing battle. From the human perspective, when we consider the spiritual, social, political, and economic conditions in our world, God seems either to have lost control or simply abandoned us.

Searching for God

Indelibly etched in my mind is an episode that occurred when I was three or four years old. My loving and protective parents, along with three supposedly attentive older brothers, departed for home following a revival service, leaving me asleep on a wooden pew in our small church sanctuary.

When I woke up, I fretfully looked around the partially darkened building (some of the lights had been turned off) to discover everyone had departed except the pastor and the evangelist. Realizing my family was gone, I panicked, bursting into uncontrollable tears.

Mercifully, at that very moment, Dad stepped through the back door of the sanctuary in search of one fearful little boy. I will never forget the overwhelming sense of relief that swept over me when I saw the face of my father and the telltale grin on his face—a grin that probably signaled relief in him to find me under the watchful eye of the pastor.

Sometimes, it seems that our heavenly Father has mysteriously forgotten us, having inexplicably vanished. Our emotions shout that He is nowhere near. Even David, psalmist and king, once gloomily asked, “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?” (Ps. 13:1 NLT).

At some point, every child of God has grappled with His apparent absence, His elusiveness, His seeming preoccupation with other concerns. We’ve wanted to see Him, but could not; we’ve wanted to hear Him, but silence sometimes hung like a dark and depressing cloud over us, threatening our security and sanity. During such times, we ask with David, “Where are You?” And with David, we find comfort in realizing He is always present, as the psalmist declares in verse 5: “But I trust in your unfailing love” (NLT).

We take comfort in knowing that the abject wickedness in the world will not, and cannot, dim the bright light of Jesus Christ and the glorious good news of His forgiveness and cleansing. We are also comforted in knowing He will never forsake His children. Yes, God is forever in control. Evil conditions in the world do not speak of His abandonment, but rather that His forewarnings are legitimate. God did not design the fulfillment of these prophecies to discourage us, but rather to strengthen our faith in Him as the omnipotent God.

Look Up

After Jesus discussed the unprecedented evil that would befall the earth in the last days, He concluded, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28 NKJV).

Global terrorism is worsening, but redemption draws near. Religious extremists grossly pervert the truth, but redemption draws near. Evil men grow more evil, but redemption draws near. Moral decadence might be the order of the day, but redemption draws near.

In these threatening times, we need not panic nor be afraid. Christ frequently charged His disciples to “fear not.” David declared, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps. 27:1). If we fix our eyes steadfastly on Christ, He will deliver us from every evil. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2 NKJV).

 

 

Bobby G. Duncan is pastor of the Parma Park, Ohio, Church of God, where he has served since 1994. He is author of It’s Not My Turf (Pathway Press) and several other books.