But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.
–2 Timothy 3:1
The heavy airplane door closes at last, and I look around to find a number of seats remaining empty. I shouldn’t be surprised; I almost didn’t make this flight myself. It was only after patiently waiting on hold for three hours that my determined husband was finally able to move up my flight by one day. Under normal circumstances, this last-minute change at no charge might seem to be nothing short of a miracle, but on this day at least, it appears that few want to board a plane bound for the Mid-Atlantic region. Oddly enough, I’m relieved, even happy to be among those flying into the path of a weather event that some news outlets are describing as a hurricane of “biblical proportions.” Despite the danger, my only thought is to go home to the place I belong.
Isn’t that also true for Christians today as we watch spiritual storm clouds gather on the horizon? Even though we see the “signs in the sun and moon and stars” and nations “in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea” as prophesied in Luke 21:25, we move forward with purpose and determination knowing that our redemption is near (vs. 28). In fact, in the book of Matthew we read that end time signs will be like birth pains (24:8). In other words, unmistakable signs will increase in frequency and intensity as the time draws closer for His glorious return. Regardless of where we stand on the timing of Christ’s return, most acknowledge that life on planet earth does seem to be in a state of unusual flux.
When inquiring as to whether such signs are truly unique to our day, we would do well to look to the prophet Daniel for an answer. Although he accurately discerned the message of King Nebuchadnezzar’s frightening dream, he wrestled with understanding his revelation of the period leading up to Christ’s return as King of kings and Lord of lords. “What do these events mean?” he asked God (Daniel 12:8.) The Lord replied by telling him that it was not for him to know. “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end . . . none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand” (Daniel 12: 9). Has that time arrived?
While I leave it up to you to decide what season we are living in, there are an inordinate number of theologians and Bible scholars coming forward to interpret current and imminent events for us. Such analyses are not within the purview of this discussion. However, there are a number of exciting spiritual signs we can and should discuss. Just as the prophet Joel foretold, God’s people are watching the Holy Spirit empower world evangelism as never before. It would be foolish for us to discount overwhelming evidence that the proclamation of the gospel is multiplying exponentially around the globe as never before. “The Jesus Film,” currently translated into over 1,000 languages, has been shown to more than six million people worldwide to date, and that doesn’t account for much smaller showings in remote villages scattered throughout third-world countries. Add to that testimonies of Christ revealing Himself to Muslims living in closed societies where religious freedom is violently suppressed, and we simply have to conclude that something different is going on. This should excite us!
It certainly appears that a great harvest is, indeed, imminent. If I didn’t believe this with all my heart, I might not have been as bold as I was on this recent flight back into Raleigh just days before Hurricane Florence made landfall. As I chatted comfortably with my seatmate on the plane, I learned that she was one of thousands of volunteers being prepositioned along eastern coastal regions to prepare for Red Cross emergency services. As we talked, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to pray for her. At first, I offered a safe, “I’ll say a prayer for you” response. However, the voice inside me got louder and more urgent until I could no longer ignore it. Just before touchdown, I asked if I could pray for her right there. Although she had come across as a no-nonsense, don’t-mess-with-me kind of woman, she readily agreed. As I allowed the Spirit to speak words of comfort and protection through me, she quietly placed her hand over mine where it rested on the arm between the seats. When we stood to deplane, she meekly thanked me several times for my prayer. This experience gave me a much-needed lesson in understanding that even though people exude a sense of bravado on the outside, they may very well be struggling with fear on the inside. More than that, it taught me the necessity of preaching the Word, and of being “prepared in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Clearly, the impending hurricane necessitated just such an in-season kind of prayer!
Our Lord taught us that we should never be anxious about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). He also taught us to fix the future so firmly in our minds that it would guide how we live each and every day. Regardless of circumstances swirling about us, we are called to live in a state of readiness at all times. So while it is not for us to know the exact day or hour of His Coming, we should seize every opportunity to speak of His saving grace and unending love for all people. May we never be so consumed and preoccupied by the cares of this life that we fail to prepare ourselves and others for Eternity.
One day in the not-too-distant future, our Lord will return, and each of us will give an account of how we lived our lives. Are you living as if your very life—your eternal life—depends upon it? While others may scoff and say that every generation has believed that it is living in the last age, make no mistake. The Lord is delaying His return only out of His great desire for all to turn to Him. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heart, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10-11). Are you ready?
Heavenly Father, may we feel Your Presence even in the midst of the storm. May we take every opportunity to tell of Your love, compassion and mercy. Amen.
— Francine Thomas