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Opinion: Are these the 'end times?'
By Jim Denison

jim denison(ABP) -- Japan's prime minister calls the March 11 earthquake and tsunami his country's worst crisis since World War II. More than 12,000 are dead or missing, a number which will continue to grow. Nuclear reactors have been damaged catastrophically. It will take years for the world's third-largest economy to recover fully.

Add the tragedy in Japan to the ongoing revolution in the Arab world and global economic distress, and people begin asking if these are the "end times." What did Jesus predict? Are his prophecies coming to fulfillment in our day?

It was Tuesday of Holy Week. After Jesus predicted the destruction of Herod's massive temple (Matthew 24:1-2), his disciples asked him, "what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (v. 3). Jesus responded with six "signs," each of which has been fulfilled to a remarkable degree in the last century:

False religions would "deceive many" (v. 5). The 20th century witnessed a significant rise in the popularity of world religions and alternative spiritualities.

"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars" (v. 6). More than 39 million people died in World War I, 51 million in World War II, and 16 million in the 150 wars since. The 20th century was the bloodiest in history.

"There will be famines" (v. 7). More than 70 million people died in famines during the 20th century, the most ever.

"There will be earthquakes" (v. 7). The National Earthquake Information Center tells us that the number of quakes is not increasing today, but they are far more catastrophic as populations in earthquake zones escalate.

"You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death" (v. 9). More than 25 million Christians died for their faith in the first 19 centuries after Christ; more than 45 million have died for Jesus in the 20th century.

"This gospel of the kingdom must be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (v. 14). Communication technology will soon make it possible to reach the entire planet's population with the gospel.

Do these facts indicate that we are in the "end times"? Yes and no.

Jesus was clear: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (v. 36). No human should claim to know more than Jesus. The Lord could delay his return by a decade, a century, or a millennium. At the same time, Jesus taught us to be prepared for him to return today: "keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24:42). We are one day closer to eternity than ever before in human history.

In biblical terms, we have been living in the "last days" for 20 centuries. According to the Jewish worldview, the "former days" would precede the Messiah; the "last days" would follow his ministry on earth. And so John could write, "Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour." (1 John 2:18).

For 20 centuries, Christians have been awaiting our Lord's return. If we live each day as though it were our last, one day we'll be right. And each day we'll make Jesus our Lord and King.

Consider one of my favorite paragraphs by C. S. Lewis: "The Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in'; aim at earth and you will get neither."

At what are you aiming today?

Published March 22, 2011

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The opinions expressed on this page are the personal opinions of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Knoxville Daily Sun.


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