Many Christian leaders have spoken publicly over the past few months about their concerns for the state of our nation—especially since the Supreme Court ruling on homosexual marriage. All of these leaders reaffirm each other regarding their sense that the world is nearing a great event of judgment, perhaps the event that will signal the very end of the “last days” themselves. Things are coming to a head, and the world is on a collision course with the Creator.
Since all appear to agree, how one reacts to this news is extremely important.
History’s perspective is not very encouraging. Almost every century seems to have a legacy of “perhaps today.” In one sense, we are always to be prepared for the Lord to wrap things up. Several of the warnings in the New Testament insist that we are to watch and prepare for God’s judgment “at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). Thus, many of the responses to troubled times have been something on the order of “hang in there” rather than “do something great in Christ’s Kingdom before He comes.”
During the early 1800s, the beginnings of a dispensational movement were led by John Nelson Darby, who greatly influenced Dr. C. I. Scofield of the Scofield Bible fame. During those years, William Miller began preaching that the return of Christ would take place “about 1843” and urged tens of thousands to embrace the millennialist movement. Many even sold their homes and properties and waited for the Lord’s return on October 22, 1844.1 Although that movement was ultimately embarrassed, it signaled a series of “end of the world” movements.
The 20th century had its own spectacular adherents. Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth influenced millions to expect the end of the world as we knew it to take place no later than 1988.2 The New York Times called it the “number one non-fiction bestseller of the decade.” If anything, that book launched a plethora of spin-off prophetic ministries that, for good or ill, taught the evangelical population to anticipate the nearness of the second coming of Christ and the “imminent” Rapture of the church. Those teachings inspired Harold Camping of Family Radio to forecast the Rapture on May 21, 2011. His media empire spent millions of dollars on more than 5,000 billboards, along with some 20 traveling RVs covered with signs of the imminent judgment day.
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves...having a form of godliness but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-2, 5)
The rapid capitulation of the moral and ethical focus of Western civilizations has stunned many. The atrocious behavior included by Paul in his warning to Timothy has been used to alert nearly every generation since it was written almost 2,000 years ago. Surely it is applicable to our day. Even more so, we should be reminded that we are most definitely in the “last days”!
No one would be more delighted than this author if the Lord would suddenly come for His bride while I am writing this article. But whenever He comes, I want Him to find me busily occupied with my five-year plan! We are instructed to watch, not simply wait. We are commanded to be on guard and to view the sudden coming judgment like a “thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10). We are to view ourselves as the servants in the famous parable of the talents and the minas—servants who were given various levels of opportunity and value and commanded to be faithful and to occupy until the Lord returns (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27).
In both cases, the implication was that the owner would be gone for an unpredictable amount of time and that each of the servants could expect a reckoning when he returned. In the one case, he judged the servants on how well they used his money, evaluating them on their “own ability.” In the other case, each having received the same amount of money in the beginning, the owner evaluated each servant by the percentage of return gained in the time he had been gone.
In each case the reward was given in proportion to the effectiveness or efficiency of the servant’s use of the money. Remember, the money belonged to the owner. The servants were merely the stewards who were given free latitude on what and how they were to use the funds. But each was expected to use what he’d been given and to do something worthwhile with “his lord’s money.” And in each case, there was a “wicked and lazy servant” who did nothing with the money—because he was afraid that he might lose it and was afraid that he would be blamed for his incompetence.
Interestingly, the reaction of the owner was to take the money that had been given to the wicked and lazy servant and turn it over to the servant who made the most money of all of them. Evidently, the Creator, the owner whose “money” we are now using, is very interested in how well we do with His resources!
What’s the point of reminding all of us of these important principles? Since we know that each of us will be evaluated by what we did with the resources placed at our disposal, and since we are given some insight into how and why our Lord will evaluate us, we need to be thinking long term rather than short term. Yes, our Lord may return in the middle of our next breath, but for His own merciful reasons He has delayed His return for almost 2,000 years (check out 2 Peter 3:9). None of us has any idea when He will come back, nor should we be hoping to skip town on our responsibilities! We are to watch and pray; we are to occupy—“do business”—until He comes (Luke 19:13).
During the darkest days of the nations of Israel and Judah, when prophet after prophet forecasted their captivity amid the apostasy of Israel and the on-again, off-again revivals of Judah, Isaiah had to remind them about God’s future plans for the nations—and exhorted them to think about expanding not persevering!
Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited. (Isaiah 54:2-3)
Look at those action verbs. We are to “enlarge” and to “stretch out.” We are not to “spare” but to “lengthen” and “strengthen” those pieces of our “tent” that secure our place of service. We may not live to see the result of our labor; we may struggle to lay the groundwork for future lives that the Lord will bring into His Kingdom, but the charge is to plan for the future—not to merely hang in there until the Lord rescues us from some awful fate!
“I am the LORD your God,” the Lord admonished Israel. “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). When the budding nation of Israel was still in slavery in Egypt, God challenged them to trust Him in spite of the circumstances. Surely you remember the trouble Moses had with Israel’s leaders, who were overwhelmed by the power of a new pharaoh “who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). It took the miracles of the ten plagues and “a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm” (Psalm 136:12) to convince them to leave Egypt and commit for the future promised to Abraham.
Again and again we see the vacillation of God’s people as the “God of all the earth” reiterated His plans for blessing as His people struggled with the darkness of momentary troubles. God’s plans stretch beyond our feeble lives, yet He has been pleased to offer the opportunity to participate in the rewards of eternity if we can but grasp the places that our “bit parts” will play in the tapestry of the future.
Isaiah had to remind his generation: “For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27). Many of the Lord’s people could only see the looming judgment that was coming on Judah. God Himself through Isaiah told Judah that the land would “see the glory of the LORD, the excellency of our God;” therefore, the people were to “strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees” (Isaiah 35:2-3).
That comparison was not a mysterious parable. The promise to Abraham, repeated in one form or another for centuries, always included a land—a designated place for the people of Israel to thrive. If the dirt could sense the faithfulness of God, how much more should the people of God trust the promises of the Creator and embrace those promises! Yet, even the faithful of the population could not see beyond the bad days and the deterioration of the nation. They endured troubles aplenty but lost the joy of the expectation of God’s blessing.
Contrast those folks with Jeremiah.
Jeremiah bought a piece of property in Jerusalem a century later when the city was just about to become deserted as the captivity under Babylon was being executed. As Jeremiah delivered his purchase deed to the recording secretary, he said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You” (Jeremiah 32:17).
Are we able to see with God’s eyes?
As I write this, our board has committed to continue producing more high-quality DVD series like Unlocking the Mysteries of Genesis. We are nearing the release of Made in His Image and are already looking forward to a third series for 2016. These are long-term investments for ICR. It is likely that we will never make a profit from the business side of the equation, but we are investing for a harvest of souls and a product life of decades. Yes, the Lord may snatch us out of the planet in the next few minutes, but a harvest of souls will come in the ensuing years.
We want our DVDs, books, and our future museum to outlive us. We seek to reach many generations in these last days. That’s why we ask for your investment with us.
As Jeremiah bought property in Jerusalem, we are also investing; we are “buying” property in the eternal Jerusalem. As God allows, ICR is building for the future.
For several years, I’ve been hesitant to move forward with our hope to build a museum and planetarium in the Dallas/Fort Worth area—in spite of the desperate need—because the funding seemed out of reach. No longer. Just this week, out of the resources of the Lord’s people (unknown to us) came a two-million-dollar gift that provides the “go for it” signal to begin looking for the rest of the millions needed.
Many of you who read this article have given faithfully of your “talents” and “minas” to share with ICR as we try to “enlarge” the “tent.” ICR’s operational needs will only increase as the reality of the future museum and planetarium comes into existence. The funds to develop and produce the DVD episodes, construct the buildings, stage the exhibits, and continue to research must come from extra gifts. Begin praying with us now that all of us will catch the “long sight” of a ministry that “lengthens” beyond the yield of the moment.
God’s plans stretch out way beyond our lifetimes. The joy comes with the assurance that you and I will share in the changed lives of those not yet in the Kingdom—even those not yet born! With earthly treasure exchanged for eternal reward, the return on your investment is priceless.
The last days are a troubled time for the world. But we are not of the world; we are told not to fear or cower. We will boldly build!
- Cairns, E. E. 1967. Christianity Through the Centuries, rev. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 459-460.
- Lindsey, H. 1970. The Late Great Planet Earth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.