The Current Scene
This noble ethic has fallen on lean times of late. Falsification and half-truths have become a way of life. This type of behaviour is found in the top echelons of our society and filters down to the lowest. Those who lie in high places set an example that is quickly found to be a convenient excuse for lesser breeds who seem convinced that honesty is not their best policy. The prophet Isaiah (10:18) describes the reason for a general breakdown in society in this manner, “and they shall be as when a standard bearer fainteth.”
Reports abound of cheating in our schools; Wall Street is reeling with scandals; bogus immigration papers are filed and false samples are submitted for drug testing. A glaring example of unprincipled professionals was disclosed by a California coroner when he declared that the late entertainer Liberace had his lawyer, manager, publicist and doctor all lie about the actual cause of his death, which was AIDS.
A concern over this disintegrating force in our society is being strongly felt in the secular world. What the Bible has been saying all along, and is generally ignored, is that there are such things as truth and falsehood. Men fancy that they live in a gray area, but reality finally spells things as black or white. Truth eventually has a way of surfacing. The former White House press secretary, Jody Powell, observes, “There is a growing degree of cynicism and sophistication in our society — a sense that all things are relative and that nothing is absolutely right or wrong.” All of this is a sign that Christianity is lessening its hold on the man of the street. Back in Victorian days he may not have been a born again Christian but Christian influence exercised a benign effect on the culture of the past. A song written by Rudyard Kipling — “The Road to Mandalay” — is about an English soldier that had seen service in the colonial days in the Far East. He’s now back home but can’t adjust to the Victorian strictures. He cries, “Take me somewhere East of the Suez where there ain’t no Ten Commandments and a man can raise a thirst.” No need for that lament today.
This prevalent moral miasma that clouds our day must not be allowed to corrupt the disciples of Christ. If so, it cripples their power and testimony. Cost what it may we are commanded to be always found “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Never should we forget that we are members of Christ’s body, the church, which is defined as, “the pillar and ground of truth.”
Two incidents that took place in the fall of 1986 have occasioned Europe to have some second thoughts — the wild concepts that were tossed around at Reykjavik and the maverick relations with Iran. Europeans were dismayed that the U. S. might remove the atomic missiles so recently placed in different parts of Europe at great political risk in each particular country. The mere mention of this has further humiliated these once proud nations of their over-dependence on the American nuclear umbrella. General Bernard W. Rodgers, NATO supreme commander, told the U. S. Congress that the “zero option” would create a substantial risk for Western Europe. Russia’s conventional forces have an overwhelming superiority over all that Europe can at present muster. We quote from an editorial: “The grandiose concepts so carelessly tossed around in Iceland are a reminder that visionary disarmament is no substitute for detailed, balanced arms-limitation agreements and may even be a device for discrediting worthy efforts to create a less dangerous world.”
The director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, Admiral James Eberle, said, “But there was some good news, too. Europeans now realize they must do more for themselves.” There is in a consolidated Europe the potential for world power. In spite of its exhaustion after two world wars in this century, that area is to rise again. A sane comparison of Scripture with Scripture, particularly Daniel and Revelation, reveal that Europe’s final revival will bear semblance to the old Roman Empire headed up under a supreme Caesar. A weakend America engulfed in its own affairs could quite logically necessitate, in the name of survival, such a development. However, this is our understanding and comes not so much from recent trends as from the general principles of the Word of God.
St. Paul gives us two signs that are the harbingers of the day of the Lord. They are “the falling away” and the revelation of the “man of sin.” This revelation is given in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 & 4, and its immediate application was to assure the Christians at Thessalonica, although sorely persecuted, that they were not in the day when God will avenge the earth. These signs still await fulfillment while present-day trends certainly appear to point in their direction.
The falling away is rendered in our Bible margins, “the apostasy.” Interpreters have generally limited this to Christendom. Yet, an historic event in the fall of 1986 may suggest that this final apostasy will be so complete that it will embrace every religion. Under the leadership of the Pope there was an invitation to the representatives of every religion to assemble at Assisi (the home of St. Francis) to pray for world peace. Present were the dignitaries of Christendom’s sacramental churches, medicine men, American Indians, Rabbis, the Lama of Buddhism and others. Here we have it — Catholics minus biblical Christianity and all religions treated as equals. Since Christianity is “the truth” it considers everything outside of it as a mission field. This is the offence of the cross.
The mention of signs to announce that the coming of the Lord is at hand does present a problem. So many of the prophecies concerning the Lord’s second coming suggest something sudden and unannounced, confirming it to be a timeless and signless event. If we put in here the secret rapture of the Church we have solved one difficulty. Then follows “the great tribulation” and here signs of the Lord’s coming to set up His kingdom will occur. As others have pointed out, the first advent of our Lord at Bethlehem comprised a series of events — the virgin birth, cleansing of the temple, crucifixion and resurrection. So our Lord’s second coming will comprise a number of events: the rapture, the tribulation, the descent of our Lord to the Mount of Olives and His glorious reign.