Friday, October 5, 2012

"In the last days scoffers will come ..."

Are we in the "last days?"  When will we know?  HOW will we know? ..... WILL we know??  When we talk about the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ, most people know only what they have heard, and most of it is not from the Bible!  If asked, "Where can you read about end times?", most Christians would probably respond with one word:  "Revelations!"  (By the way, it's not "Revelations," it's "Revelation" - which means, "uncovering").

The truth is, the Bible is full of information about the end of this age and the return of Jesus Christ.  But before we get to some of those passages, we need to talk about the idea of there even being a "last days."  To do that, I want to start with II Peter 3:1-13.  We'll look at this passage over the next few days.

To begin, Peter gives to his readers the reason behind his writing:  "Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you.  I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking" (vs. 1). Peter very clearly addresses his letters to a particular audience.  In I Peter 1:1-2, he writes, "To God's elect, strangers in the world ... who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit."  In II Peter 1:1, he writes, "To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours."  Peter is writing to believers, to those who have been born again by God's Spirit, and who have confessed Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  It is these that he desires to "stimulate to wholesome thinking."

In order for that to happen, Peter continues in chapter 3, verse 2:  "I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles."  The mistake many young believers, or even Unbelievers, make is that they want to talk about "end times" or "the last days" without having any previous knowledge of the Word of God.  It's like trying to read the last chapter of a book and thinking that you will understand it all.  It just doesn't work that way!  The Word of God is one book with one message and one story.  It goes from beginning to end.  You can't understand the end if you don't have some grasp of the beginning and the middle.  So as we talk about end times and the return of Jesus we will have to refer to things that were written before the apostle John's revelation and we will need to understand God's plan from the beginning.

Peter goes on, then, in verses 3-7, to explain why it is important to know God's plan and to believe that all of history is moving towards an appointed end.  "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.  They will say, 'Where is this coming He promised?  Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.'" (vss. 3-4).  I'm going to stop there for today because the fact that people are even talking about the end of the world is evidence that we are in the last days.  It has not always been so.  In one sense, we have been in the last days since the first coming of Jesus.  The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus ushered in a new stage in God's plan.  From His throne in heaven, Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit and brought Jews and Gentiles together in the Church.  But the "last days" Peter is talking about is a period of time prior to the return of Jesus that will be marked by certain signs.  One of them is "scoffers."

These "scoffers" will question whether there is even going to BE a time when this world will end.  People today live as though this world will last forever - unless, of course, we "blow ourselves up."  But God says otherwise.  While in our current political debates the two "sides" try to draw a contrast between each other, they are both pursuing a course designed by men.  One may be more in line with the principles of God's Word, but the real issues - spiritual issues - are largely ignored.  We are living in the most uncertain time in the history of the world.  People feel it; people are nervous and they are grasping at straws, desperately looking for a leader.  The one they will eventually find will be a deceiver - the anti-christ.

In the midst of this, God says to His people, "scoffers will come," but do not be deceived.  Look at what God has done before.  Listen to what God has said before.  Stand firm!  For everything will unfold exactly as He has revealed.  How important is it, then, to KNOW what God has said in His Word.  It is to His Word that you must commit yourself to listening and from which you must learn of the last days.  For more than a century people have been speaking about the end of the world at an ever-increasing level.  In the past thirty to forty years people all over the world have been discussing what the Bible says about "end times."  Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy, or is this the time Peter was talking about?  Only if people are talking about these things can scoffers ask their question, "Where is this 'coming" He promised?"  And they ARE asking!!  As people talk about the "rapture" and declare that Jesus could come any day, people are asking, "When? When?? When???"

Begin here.  Read II Peter 3 and ask God for wisdom.  He will give it to you and you will begin a journey of preparation that will bring hope and courage to you and to all with whom you share GOD's truth!

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