As Scripture teaches, a great eschatological crisis is often preceded by a significant change in the moral climate. Before a dispensation closes, there are certain signs to tell us that the “end is nigh.” In the days of Noah, men were unwilling to hearken to the preaching of the word. That was the tell-tale sign. They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah and his family entered the Ark (Luke 17: 27). Then, seven days later, the flood began, and all flesh was destroyed. That was the crisis.
I. Dispensational Turning-Points
The Flood ended a Dispensation, but it also closed the Antediluvian age, ushering in the “present evil age.” It is only natural, then, that when Jesus Christ equates His second coming to the flood of Noah, He predicts that moral conditions on earth will be substantially equivalent to those which ended the previous age. Those conditions called for judgment, and constituted a Dispensational turning-point. But as it was in the days of Noah and of Lot, so shall it be when the Son of Man is revealed.
Between the end of the present Church Dispensation, and the “revelation” of Jesus Christ in the clouds of heaven, is a parenthetical “Dispensation of Judgment.” It is with this seven-year epoch that the book of Revelation deals. The fulfillment of its prophecies will begin when the present administration closes–when the throne of grace is exchanged for a throne of judgment.
When the Lamb comes forward to take up the seven-sealed scroll from the hand of His Father, the entire condition of things on earth will change. As students of the Word of God, and as Christians called to follow unerringly the Captain of our salvation, these events ought to interest us deeply. When we see apostasy spreading on all sides, we can only conclude that we are headed, with all speed, toward the “end of the age.”
II. The World Has Reached A Crisis
None will deny that the world is in a dire condition. The case being as it is, we naturally ask, how deep are we into the signs which forecast the end? Will a secret rapture occur at any moment, or have we time yet to spare? Will we ourselves be found entering into the next phase of divine administration? Or will we be caught out before the tribulation begins? Such questions are pertinent, and should make every Bible-believing Christian ask: “How near are we to the consummation?”
Popular prophecy teachers like Hal Lindsey see in the current economic woes a tell-tale sign that globalization will soon be implemented. “You can’t nationalize a global economic problem,” he says. Only bring globalization into the domains of economy and politics, and religion will quickly follow. Many Christians, in studying the last book of the New Testament, don’t realize that the church is mentioned in the the Apocalypse. But not as we expect to find it!
John sees apostate Christianity in its final form, as the harlot rides the beast during the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week (Rev. 17). What does this tell us? It signifies that once Antichrist steps on the scene, the present apostasy will have become so rife that the church as as we know it will be barely recognizable. Now, as more and more Christians espouse “latitudinarian” concepts, and willingly compromise their stance on vital issues, the church’s harlotry becomes more profound. All the more reason, then, to take heed to the warnings contained in the epistles to the seven assemblies (Rev. 2-3). Only those who keep God’s word whole and undefiled will be accounted worthy to escape the tribulation (Rev. 3: 10).
The nature of the present apostasy tells us that things are reaching a climax. Evengelicalism is being undermined, while atheism spreads. Morality, even of the most basic type, is becoming a thing of the past. Discord and disillusion strut hand in hand through a wasteland of broken dreams and shattered hopes. Cynicism is the order of the day. And if anyone professes belief in the doctrines of Christianity, he is ridiculed as an ignoramus, a fanatic, or worse.
III. Paying Attention To The Signs
Hence, we can tell we are near the end by paying attention to these “signs of the times.” It will be asserted, I know, that history is full of “fallings away” from the purity of the Gospel; and that the run of human affairs has never been such as to bring doomsday prophets to silence. My answer is, that while church history records many recidivations from the truth, and secular history is full of wars and rumors of wars (all of which make it difficult to predict how far we are into the end of the age), never before in human history have we seen such phenomena so rapid and worldwide in their effects. And never before have individuals (and whole nations) fallen so quickly into the traps that Satan has laid out for the human race.
But in answering the question “how long?” Bible history will be found more helpful than human history. As the world is on the verge of an eschatological crisis, the only way to tell how close we are to the end is to go back and study those moral conditions that marked the close of the previous age. How many “signs” parallel what we see happening all around us? The proliferation of these signs, like tropical plants in their native element, will indicate our proximity to the next great crisis in human history.
In his book “Dispensational Truth” (1918), Clarence Larkin lists seven signs which marked the close of the Antediluvian Age. Let’s see how many of these signs we can point to as prominent in our own day:
1): A tendency to worship God simply as Creator, and not as Jehovah requiring atonement for sin.
2): There was a rapid advance in cilvilization, and in the arts and sciences.
3): There was a union of the holy line of Seth with the wicked line of Cain.
4): A vast increase of population and congestion of population in the great cities.
5): Undue prominence of the female sex, and disregard of the primal law of marriage.
6): Unlawful intercourse of “denizens of the air” with the daughters of men.
7): The rejection of the preaching of Enoch and Noah.
IV. Unbelief Spurs Us Closer To The End
Of all these indications of human degeneracy, I think the worst of all is failure to believe the Gospel. As a minister of the Gospel, I myself have witnessed, even in heavily evangelical communities, a deep-seated apathy and lack of interest in the doctrines of personal salvation.
Then, too, moving among professing Christians, I’ve witnessed, time and again, a spirit of impish perversity that will not believe in the warnings of a “wrath to come.” When I think of what stagnation has overtaken so many, it certainly impells me to believe that we are living in those closing days of which Christ warned His chosen apostles (Matt. 24: 12), and in those perilous times of which Paul warned Timothy (2 Tim. 3: 1-8). Christians are apt to believe in and accept the grace of God. But how many are willing to accept that perhaps one day they may have to suffer martyrdom for their faith? Are we as Christians ready to make this sacrifice? Have we allowed the moral and spiritual climate of the world to chill our faith in the God of the Bible? Can we not see that we are on the brink of a great eschatological crisis, which could happen at any moment?
V. Our Present Duty Is To Watch!
When we agree that things are getting worse and worse, we must recognize that there is but one thing to do, and that is to zealously uphold and defend the “faith delivered once for all to the saints” (Jude 3). Yes, the only solution to our problems is to obey the Gospel, and to resist any efforts of the adversay calculated to undermine faith in Christ. Is a promised reward held out to overcomers? Let us press forward that we may obtain the prize. Are comforts afforded us through the preaching of the Gospel? Then let no man seek to tell us our Gospel is false. As the devil rages, and as the nations vent their wrath against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, it is our duty to stand at our posts and to await the glorious coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who shall deliver us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1: 10).
No watchman, while he is on the tower, allows himself to fall asleep, lest the enemy come in at unawares and surprise him, and the city be taken. But he is to remain a faithful sentinel. And when he sees dust-clouds rolling over the distant plain, he is to sound the alarm, that all may get prepared for the coming battle. In meditation in the night hours, in a dream of the night, one saw many horsemen arrayed in somber colors, their weapons stained with blood, making haste to reach the unwalled villages before morning. And a vigilant watchman, seated upon the tower, espied the band approaching, gave the alarm, and through his faithfulness saved many men, women, and children from the wrath of the invader.
As worthy watchmen and stewards of the grace of God, let us do the same. For we know not how near we are to the end of the age. But knowing that the age is racing to its end, we have much to do in warning others, and in keeping ourselves unspotted from the world (James 1: 27). May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be ever with us, and confirm us unto the end, that we may stand before Him unashamed, and receive the inheritance that He has promised unto all His saints. Amen.