For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
The churches' websites includes recorded sermons for those who are interested. Click the links below to access them.

Friday, August 17, 2018

His Return - How Close Are We?

How Close Are We? 

There are many who shy away from studying the end times. For some it seems too intimidating. After all, there are over 150 chapters in the Bible that relate to the end times! Others have been put off by those who have predicted a date and have always been wrong. Still others quote Jesus as saying that “no one knows the day or hour” and reason that it is pointless to study the end times. 
Each of these positions are mistaken. First, it is dangerous to ignore 150 chapters of the Bible that were given for our instruction so that we can be equipped for the works we are called to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17). While they will apply most dramatically to the generation that actually experiences the return of Christ, they contain a great deal of insight into how believers of every age are to live. 
While it is true that no one knows the day or hour of his return, Jesus did tell us that there were signs that would precede his coming and that we should be ready. In fact, the Bible tells us that we will NOT be surprised by his return (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4)! Of course, if we ignore the study of the last days, we will be surprised. In fact, we will be offended. We might even fall away (Matthew 24:9-13).
Personally, I feel that the signs of his return are becoming more and more unmistakable. It
would not surprise me at all if the the generation that will experience his coming is already on the earth today. We are living in unique times and the sound of hoofbeats of the horsemen can be heard in the distance. 

So what are some of these signs?

The Gospel to the Nations

The Lord desires to see people from every nation gathered around his throne. This is a key reason we are to be make disciples of all nations and be witnesses of Jesus to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Jesus gave a very specific sign in Matthew 24:14. He said that the gospel will be taken to every nation and thenthe end would come. In recent decades there has been a dramatic missionary movement that has spread the gospel around the world. Missionaries are now targeting the the “least reached” within nations and working with ever-tighter definitions of what defines a group of people in order to reach those who may have not heard the gospel. 
In fact, the most recent edition of Operation World reports that most of the “unreached” peoples already have at least one believer (Operation World 2010, p. 27). This key already be in the lock ready to be turned to open the door for his return!

The Beginnings of The Last Days Outpouring the Spirit

The Holy Spirit has always empowered the church. At times, his presence has been assumed rather than actively recognised. Often, the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit has been ignored and the church has been relatively powerless. The Scriptures tell us that in the last days there will be a great outpouring of the Spirit. This will result in prophecy, visions, and dreams being common. It will empower the believers to boldly witness resulting in a great revival. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:28-32).
In the last hundred years there has been a massive move of the Holy Spirit in the church worldwide. While there have been excesses, this openness to the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit is an indication of the power that will be manifested in the church as it moves through the last days. 

Economic Trends

In the last days there will be a worldwide interconnected financial system in place that will require a mark of loyalty to the government for participation. If you do not have the mark, you will be unable to buy or sell anything. Such a global system was unthinkable until the invention of modern computer-based technology (Revelation 13:16-18). 
Some governments are already planning to become cashless. All transactions will be electronic. You will have to be in the system to buy or sell anything. This trend is not evil in itself and is probably irreversible. It is convenient and secure. Governments and law enforcement like the ability to track criminal activity and will promote it. 
However, there will come a day when a pledge of allegiance will be required to be part of the system. This allegiance will be to the leader of a economic, political, and religious system. Only those who make this pledge will be given a mark that will allow them to buy and sell. This is the mark of the Beast. True followers of Christ will not participate and will be persecuted.

The March Toward a One-World Government

History is filled with groups of people forming institutions for mutual benefit and strength. This always involves people submitting to the authority of the institution. For example, the United States were formed by separate colonies/states submitting themselves to a united federal government. History also tells us that these institutions will compete economically and militarily for control fo people and resources. Wars are the common result. 
In the last century two global wars and the development of nuclear weapons made international cooperation paramount and led to the development of the United Nations. While nations continue to jockey for position, the trend toward a global government is relentless. Technology has made the world smaller. This has made it possible to centralise global power in a single place. The desire for peace and security will make the establishment of a world-wide government inevitable. Every wave of international conflict simply pushes us closer to the day we will have an international peace accord (Daniel 9:27).
The Bible speaks of the reestablishment of a city like ancient Babylon, which combined economic, military, political and religious power in a single city with a single head. It persuaded people cooperate and punished severely those who did not. The pieces necessary for the development of this truly global city are falling into place. Where and when remain a mystery, but the masses cry out for unity and peace on earth (Revelation 13).

Increasing Governmental Power to Monitor

Civil governments are necessary to restrain evil. Police arrest criminals. Military units keep us safe from invasion. Governments often work hard to identify threats in the earliest stages. One of the facts of governmental systems is that they seek to protect themselves. In the time of kings and queens, loyalty to the crown was demanded and the king used whatever means necessary to ensure his “divine right” to rule was not questioned and the laws that emanated from it were followed. Often these kings were abusive in their authority. In the West, various democratic constitutions create the government. The idea was that government of the by the people rather than a king would protect what were seen as God-given rights that belonged to each person. The officials of the government, elected and appointed, are expected to protect and defend the Constitution from all threats whether foreign or domestic.

This inherent desire of governments to protect themselves, coupled with the desire for people to live in safety, opens the door to abuse. Today governments install cameras in almost all public places. Our cell phones track our every movement and are often listening in on our everyday lives. Siri is alway listening in case you have a question. The use of debit cards and electronic funds transfers means we don’t have to carry lots of cash around. It also leaves a trail of what we spend our money on. Social networks highlight who knows who and our likes and dislikes. All of this reduces our privacy. 
We often react by saying, “Don’t care because I am not doing anything wrong.” Which is true…today. But remember that Adolph Hitler quickly rose to power. Imagine the terror he could have caused using today’s technology. The Bible speaks of a time of great tribulation when all who do not worship the Antichrist will be hunted down and killed. The tools that will be used in this evil campaign are already being refined in the name of safety and security. 

 The Existence of the Nation of Israel

Without a doubt, one of the most amazing events of the last hundred years is the migration of Jewish people back to the Promised Land and the sudden appearance of the nation of Israel in 1948. This, too, is a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy and begins to set the stage for the events of the last days. 
Just as amazing, but receiving less attention is the fact that Jewish people are beginning to discover that Jesus is their Messiah. There are over 250 Messianic Jewish congregations in Israel. This is likely to be the first-fruits of a great ingathering of Jews in the last days. The Bible tells us that one day every living Jew will have received the Jesus as their Messiah (Romans 11;25-26).

So What?

The generation that experiences the Lord’s return is the most-written about generation in the Bible. The Bible tells us that the days will be dark with sin and persecution and we need to be prepared. At the same time, the Bible also tells that it will be a time of great spiritual power and the contrast between the followers of Christ and the rest of society will be incredible. The closest parallel is the escape from Egypt. As the Lord brought Israel out of captivity, his judgements were poured out on the Egyptians, but the people of Israel experienced great victory. Studying the end times will prepare us to live with the power of the Spirit in difficult circumstances even if we are not a part of the generation that experiences his return.

Study the Scriptures

There are a lot of books out there, but it is the Bible that needs to form the foundation of our walk with the Lord. His Word is our guide. So study what it says. 150 chapters will take time to digest. Start with Matthew 24. It lays out the basic timeline. Then read the other chapters in the New Testament. Then turn to the Old Testament. 
What you will discover is that Jesus is coming back. He will come back in a paradoxical time. The world will have become dark. Wickedness will be everywhere. Yet his bride, the church is praying and operating with great power. The contrast between believers and unbelievers will be dramatic. 


1 Peter 4:7 tells us that end of all things is near. Therefore, we are to be alert and self-controlled so that we can pray. As we see the day of his return drawing close, we must give ourselves to prayer, much as Daniel did. When he understood from prophecy that the times of the Babylonian exile were coming to an end he gave himself to prayer and fasting (Daniel 9:1-3). This is the way God typically operates in the world. He seeks to respond to our prayers because he wants to be in relationship with us. This is why Jesus tells us to pray for his kingdom to come. 
The end times will see the church crying out for the Lord to fulfil his promises. And he will.  

Live with a Sense of Urgency

If the days of the return of Christ are at hand, then we must live with a sense of urgency. People need to hear the gospel. We need to prepare ourselves for days of persecution so that we will stand. We need live with eternity’s values in mind rather than chasing after the baubles of the world. 

We should be doing these three things anyway! 

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