“We are in the last days.” “Our Lord’s coming is near.” I have heard sentiments like these expressed more in that last few years than I have in all of my life. Why now? Is it because of the moral decline in our country, as abortion and homosexual marriage are becoming increasingly promoted? Is it because of the appearance of the decline of Christianity in our nation? (note I said “appearance”- I do not think the Christian church is shrinking; rather the tares are being weeded out leaving the true believers). Is it because of the rise of Islam or the carelessness of our political system? There can be dozens of things as to why Christians are so pessimistic about the immediate future. However, long-term, the future is bright- Jesus, our King, is coming.
This brings me to a couple of issues that need to be addressed: 1) Theologically speaking, the “end times” or the “last days” or the “end of the age” has been going on since the cross (Heb. 1:2). Peter also says that they (himself and the multitude at Pentecost) are living in the “last days” by quoting Joel 2 [Acts. 2:17]. 2). Our attitude has greatly affected our commitment to kingdom work. Let me rephrase that: our overwhelmingly negative attitude (in part due to dispensationalism) has hindered the church from its mission and therefore its growth and health. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe the true church of Jesus Christ is alive and well. Healthy and vibrant. And its growing around the world. It happens to be the majority opinion of church-goers in America has this “give up and rapture-watch” mentality. Instead of counting the cost, giving up resources and self, to reach the nations [in particular, thousands of unreached people groups] with the gospel, many are just content with waiting for our troubles to end. This should not be. The cultural issues we face in the Western world are not any different (except perhaps the scale of the issues) than what Rome had to deal with (which I will write about soon); in fact, I had to do a little research on the collapse of the Roman Empire and found that the reason for its demise was largely due to internal causes: the eroding of societal infrastructure: rise in taxes, distrust in political leaders, rise in divorce, rise in homosexuality, etc (source: Jack Arnold’s IIIM Magazine, vol. 1, number 30, Sept, 1999). What I’m trying to say is this: America in the 2000’s is not the first country to have to deal with these issues. In history, other cultures dealt with the exact same issues. However, I can only but wonder if the Christians in those cultures gave up being active in the public sphere and prayed for the world to come to an end so they will not have to deal with sin, suffering, and perhaps, a taboo word for Western Christians, persecution.
No. We must not be passive because the world seems to be in the worst, most degenerate state it has ever been in because that may not be the case (a la the fall of Rome, which practically was the world). Where is our trust in an all-powerful, wholly good, sovereign God? Do we think the world and its problems are beyond His might and power? I am not a postmillennialist, meaning I do not think the church, through social and political activity will usher in the golden age known as the millennium, but I do not find it scriptural or God-honoring to do nothing for the cause of Christ. The reason why these cultural issues are as prominent as they are are because of Christians, whether by practice or by name only, have become complacent with the status quo, and in an instant society changes (think 1960’s to now). Actually, the late Adrian Rogers, a Southern Baptist pastor, said,
“What’s wrong with our world is not the Communists, the media, Hollywood, the liquor and gambling industries, or pornographers. The problem is sitting in church pews: saltless saints. Salt without savor in a world that’s rotting. Jesus said we are to be the SALT of the earth. (Matt. 5:13).”
In other words, Christians, by becoming complacent and retiring to the pew, have allowed society to become what it is. Church, it isn’t time for quitting, no matter how “far gone” you may deem society to be. God has worked through His people in different contexts throughout history for His glory. God has called us to be faithful, obedient and active all the while trusting in His providence (Ps. 103:19).