Where Can We Look in Times Like These?
In what seems almost symbolic, one of my study Bibles is coming apart at the seams with a total break at II Peter chapter three. The result is that the book naturally flops open at this particular passage as if to purposely remind me of Peter’ words.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (II Peter 3:10-13)
Three times in this short passage concerning our stance of readiness for the end times, the apostle uses the verb “to see.” He tells us to take notice that TETWAWKI is coming and to determine what kind of people we must be in light of that reality; he admonishes us to look for and eagerly anticipate the day when this transition is to occur; he commands us to look for the new heavens and new earth that are promised as a replacement for the present evil age. I’m sure that we are all aware that we are living in what the scripture refers to as perilous times. In times like these, it is important that we have a proper focus for our attention lest we become victims of the chaos of the times. We must be like the sons of Issachar who understood the times in which they lived and kept a proper perspective on all the events around them. (I Chronicles 12:32)
As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives and prophesied the fate that awaited the city of Jerusalem, He wept over the city because they had refused to look to Him. Calling to mind the imagery of Psalm 91:1 and 4, He said that He was offering to bring them under His wing but that they had resisted. They did not know where to look to find a way through the perilous times they were to face.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matthew 23:37)
The question I’m asking today is, “Where can we look in times like these?”
The first place we must look is up. When David was encompassed by a multitude of enemies, he cried out as to where he should look for help. His mind questioned if he could look to the hills as a place of refuge from his pursuer, but his spirit immediately retorted that he must look unto the Lord for that was his only source of help.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
When Jesus forewarned His disciples of the conditions that are to prevail in the last times, He admonished them that they should look up.
And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28)
We must never let our focus be on the conditions about us; else, we fail to see the redemption that the Lord is ready to manifest in our lives. Paul encouraged us to constantly gaze upward, and especially so as we can see that we are drawing close to the end of this phase of human history.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)
In times like these, we must look up!
As emphatic as the scripture is that we are to look up in times like these, they are just as definite that we are to also look inside. If we hope to be included in the raptured host at the return of Christ, we must be purified and ready for His appearing. Just as the bridegroom anticipates a chaste bride, the Lord expects a purified church upon His return. If we are to be able to look up with hope, we must first look inside ourselves and deal with all impurities.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (I John 3:2-3)
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)
In times like these, we must look up and look inside. It is also scriptural that we are to look back occasionally as we face difficult times.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
In doing so, we see that history is filled with men and women who can attest to the fact that the promises of God are real and that they work in the most dire situations. When we look behind us, we see Daniel insisting that God is ready to shut the mouths of hungry lions. We hear the three Hebrew children declaring that there is a fourth man who will meet us in the fiery furnace. We see Abraham as he testifies that God can lead us even though there is no road map to our destination. We meet Moses who insists that even the Red Sea isn’t a worthy obstacle when God is with us. These voices are joined by John Huss, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Corrie Ten Boom, and millions more who encourage us to keep going no matter what the conditions around us might be.
In times like these, we have to look up, we have to look inside, and we must look back. In addition, we have to look beyond. Especially in difficult times, there is a danger of being too shortsighted. Ten of the twelve spies who went to check out the land of Canaan fell prey to this trap. They came back with a glowing report about the Promised Land, yet they also reported one obstacle that they could not look beyond. When they saw the giants, they evaluated themselves as grasshoppers. Notice that the scriptures record that it wasn’t until after they saw themselves as grasshoppers that the giants began to see them in this same diminutive way.
And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers 13:33)
In actuality, the inhabitants of the land were shaking in their boots at the thought that the Israelites might invade them. Just listen to the report that Rahab gave to the two spies (Joshua had learned better than to send in twelve spies) who came to Jericho some forty years later.
And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. (Joshua 2:9-10)
If forty years after the fact they were still scared spitless, imagine how petrified they must have been when the parting of the Red Sea was still the front-page headlines on the Palestine Today newspaper and the cover article on the Canaan News and World Report magazine. You see, the ten spies couldn’t look beyond the giants to the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey that God had reaffirmed to them at least five times. (Exodus 3:8, 3:17, 13:5, 33:3; Leviticus 20:24) Even though they testified that they had seen the promise and that its fulfillment was imminent, they were afraid to appropriate it. (Numbers 13:27)
The same trap can ensnare us today if we fail to look beyond the immediate difficulties and focus on the promises of God. In times like these, we have to look up, look inside, look back, and look beyond. We must also look around to see how our brothers and sisters in the Lord are doing as they are also going through these difficult times. The book of Hebrews admonishes us that we will especially need one another as the evil day approaches.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)
Although Solomon penned the words in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, it doesn’t take a man with all that much wisdom to know that when two people grab hold of each other they have a better chance of standing when things get tough. In these last days, we must look around and find the weak and hurting ones so that we can pull them close in a strong embrace of Christian love and protection. We often fail to emphasize the prophetic truth that the church worldwide will experience severe persecution in the last days. Nestled right in the oft-recited context of the wars and rumors of wars and the global evangelism of the last days is the not-so-well-rehearsed statement that Christians in every nation will be hated in these last times. (Matthew 24:9, 5:11, 10:24-25)
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (I Peter 4:11-14)
Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (Hebrews 12:4)
In times like these, we must look up, we must look inside, we must look behind, we must look beyond, and we must look around. But we must also pay attention to the instructions on the bumper sticker – in what seemed like a remark defiant of our Christian optimism – that reminds us of one more direction we must look, “Keep looking down!” It is only after reading the second line, “You are seated in heavenly places with Christ,” that we can realize that it is a message for the end time. Paul established the fact that Christ was seated above all demonic power as a result of the resurrection, but he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say that we are also seated at the same position of authority that Christ occupies.
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come…And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 1:20-22; 2:6)
As a result, we are to always experience a victorious authority no matter what attack we must endure.
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. (II Corinthians 2:14)
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. (II Corinthians 10:4)
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. (Romans 8:37)
We are to look down because Satan is under our feet.
And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:20)
In times like these, we are to look up, inside, behind, beyond, around, and down. But there is one more direction we must look – out. I don’t mean “look out” as in watch out for danger. Rather, we are to look out upon the world around us because the world is ready for the message we have to share.
Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (John 4:35)
Not only do we have a mandate to take the gospel into all the world, we also have a promise that the citizens of every nation will be ready to hear in these last days.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)
In all our looking, we must not fail to always look out for every opportunity we have to share the good news in a world being inundated with bad news. Matthew 24:14 proclaims that the end will not come until the message of the kingdom has been proclaimed to every nation. That will only happen when all believers begin to take seriously our mandate to take that message to every nation as we look out and realize that the harvest fields are indeed ripe unto harvest. In times like these, we must look up for our redemption is on its way. In times like these, we must look inside ourselves to see that we are purified and ready for the Lord. In times like these, we must look behind ourselves to see that there are great witnesses to encourage us. In times like these, we must look beyond the obstacles to the promises of God. In times like these, we must look around to find our brothers and sisters who need our encouragement. In times like these, we must look down and realize that the devil – no matter how much he may try to act otherwise – is under our feet. In times like these, we must look out onto the whole world because it is our mission field and a harvest field ready for our reaping.
How Shall We Live, Knowing That the End is Near?
I believe that the microwave was right; these are the end times. But so did the first generation of believers. Many of them interpreted the words of Jesus that many of the ones who knew Him would not taste death until the kingdom had come (Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27) to mean that TETWAWKI was to come in their lifetime. But it didn’t. When Martin Luther was confronted with the challenge of sending missionaries to foreign lands, he responded that he believed that the end would come before the men had the opportunity to travel that far and accomplish anything for the kingdom of God. Of course, we know that he somehow miscalculated his timetable. However, there is one important lesson we can learn from the great Reformer in spite of his error in predicting the end. Someone once asked Luther what he would do if he knew that today were to be his last day on earth. He began to list all his activities including his time of prayer, study, and writing. The gentleman who had posed the question interrupted at this point with an exclamation, “But Sir, that’s your daily routine. I’m asking what you would do if this were to be your last day to live.” Luther responded, “Exactly. You see, I live every day as if it could be my last.”
Someone once said that the world couldn’t end today because it is already tomorrow in Australia. He was countered by a friend who replied, “The world will end today. Well, at least on a very localized level.” In response to all such concerns, it is good to remember the little poem that has appeared in English literature in a number of versions over the past millennium:
Yesterday is history;
Tomorrow is a mystery;
Today is a gift.
That’s why we call it the present.
More importantly, we must remember to live our lives in light of the words of Jesus,
My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready (John 7:6), and of the apostolic warning, Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness (II Peter 3:11).
This is good advice for all of us. The watchful attitude that Peter instructed us to have concerning the end time will prove beneficial no matter what time it really is. In reality, TETWAWKI is upon us every day in that no day ever presents the same opportunities or possibilities as the day before. Any missed opportunity is a lost opportunity; any wasted possibility is a lost one. When each day ends, we have seen the end of the world that that day had to offer to us. Each morning finds us with a new set of circumstances to face, new challenges to confront, and a new world to live in. Just think of how much life changed overnight on Black Tuesday when Wall Street crashed in 1929, when the Japanese kamikaze pilots attacked Pearl Harbor, when Hitler initiated his “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jews from Germany, when the Hutus decided to implement their plan to fell the “tall trees” through genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, and when Osama bin Laden released his wrath on “the Great Satan” on September 11, 2001. In reality, the worlds we live in are very fragile and can be broken and end at any moment. But it is not only the world of society that can come to a catastrophic termination in a split second. Our individual worlds can come crashing to their ends at any moment through our individual deaths. Every day is the end of the world for someone – possibly the people we are around or possibly for ourselves. Therefore, if we are going to live for the end time, we must understand that living for the end may mean living for our personal end just as certainly as living for the universal end of the age. In this light, we must seize each day as if it were the last one. In reality it is the last one that we have for the moment – and, at some point, it will be the literal last day for each of us as individuals and eventually for the human race as a whole!