The Current Scene
Biblical Christianity is confronted by two arch opponents; namely, Atheism and Ritualism. The presence of Christ in the world brought these two masterpieces of Satan out into the light. The Sadducees entertained no belief in the supernatural (Matt. 22:23; Acts 22:8). We would label them today as materialists — a euphony for atheists, or thereabouts. A Pharisee was the ritualist — a champion of religious tradition. Today he is seen in those who hold that the church is the only depository of sacramental grace. Each of these systems and their close relatives, according to their natural dispositions, charms their millions of votaries.
In the strange amalgum of human affairs fate has pushed two formidable champions to represent and energize these two great systems. We refer to the present Pope and the new head of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev. Both of these systems were weakening at the top when these two men came into power. Now things are shaping differently. Many of us read Ezekiel 38 and 39 as revealing a powerful king of the North (Russia) shaping significant events during the great tribulation until miraculously destroyed. In Revelation 17 and 18 we see the Roman Church restored in world affairs as a “Queen, and no widow.” Rome was destroyed by the embittered people in the French Revolution and the Bolshevic revolution in 1917. These were rehearsals of what is to take place on a far greater scale in the end times.
Pope John Paul II, humanly speaking, gives one the impression of being a splendid specimen of manhood. He has considerably revived Catholicism along conservative lines: priestly celibacy and the limited role of women. Along with this a new emphasis is being given to Romanist dogmas. Maryolatry still ranks paramount. He says, “Mary is the source of our faith and hope.” He tells us that the Roman bishops are infallible in their interpretation of Scripture. The “separated brethren” of a few years ago are only received back on Rome’s terms.
These two forceful leaders may be, unwittingly to be sure, expanding their influence toward the prophetic theatre of events that are to reach their climax and destruction in that period so often foretold in both testaments, “the great tribulation.” Certainly these two Satanic systems have men that answer to the description in 2 Corinthians 11:14: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.” Even Communism can boast of its curbs on immorality with a better showing than is being witnessed in the democracies.
The disciples asked the Lord for the signs that would announce His second advent. In Matthew two lengthy chapters are taken up in reply to the disciples’ question. By the time we arrive at chapter 24:33 several harbingers are mentioned.
One sign particularly is not imminent, that is the appearance of the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel and appearing in the “holy place.” This can only refer to the Jewish temple that is not yet in existence. This feature does not occur until the middle of the great tribulation. This in turn will occasion a flight from Jerusalem by those of understanding, and hopefully it will not be on a sabbath day. A defined and limited “holy place” and sabbath restrictions are foreign to Christian principles. Obviously, the second coming in Matthew answers the question in a Jewish context. The rapture of the church comes first. Getting back to verse 33 we read, “When ye see all these things, know it is near.” Some of the “things” are in an incipient form right now. With what has happened in 1985 we may be excused for being impressed by the prophecy, “and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.” The famines in Africa have been well publicized. In America social diseases, we call them sin diseases, are reaching plague proportions with no medical cures yet in sight.
Both Testments have strong prohibitions against all types of sex perversions. These objective commands cannot be flouted — “the way of the transgressor is hard” (Prov. 13:15). The plagues poured upon Egypt had their origin from God. God’s governmental reign over the sons of men is to be kept separate from the reign of grace that behooves to the penitent.
The earthquakes are another story. They have always been around (Amos 1:1), but their present magnitude of casualties is explainable by the population density the world over. This too makes hurricanes so deadly. Such visitations are described by Isaiah 28:21. “…that He may do His strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act.” Our Lord referred to two calamities in His day (Luke 13:1-5) and applied them as warnings to the living. He said, “Think ye they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay, but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
While Westerners indulge in birth control and abortions, other sections of the world are doubling and tripling the loss. The countries and islands that are short on space or resources are fast multiplying their numbers. Mexico loads its excess millions on the U.S. If the present influx continues, it is not hard to envision American cities spawning shanty towns. Florida has a poorly protected shore line. The supply of good water is threatened and exotic diseases are imported. A pertinent question now being considered is our need, room and opportunity for these unwanted and unfortunate victims of a reckless family planning. Are they a judgment on the highly privileged elements of society who have been selfish regarding their own family additions? No system of government can assure the good life when an adequate supply of water is threatened by bulging populations. Worse yet, these teeming multitudes are not showing a popular response to the gospel. A high infant mortality and killing diseases kept populations in balance. Now with the inventions of penicillin and innoculations, there have been introduced into society new problems. Reminding us of Solomon’s remark, “That which is crooked cannot be made straight.” Paul tells us that “by one man’s (Adam) disobedience many were made sinners.” The Genesis account of the universality of the fall is the only satisfactory explanation for the bind man has always experienced. A perfect universe is neither practical nor possible until Christ returns to reign. Then the curse will be lifted.